"The Council of State has just sent a critical message on the management of football supporters in France"

Chronic. On Saturday January 18, 3,500 Borussia Dortmund supporters attended the hat-trick of Norwegian prodigy Erling Haaland, 19, just recruited from RB Salzburg. What make their journey profitable in Augsburg, nearly 600 kilometers from their bases.

The equivalent event in French football should have been, the same day, the exceptional match of Rayan Cherki, 16 year old lyonnaise nugget, in Nantes. We will rather remember the fact that about fifteen supporters from Nancy were finally able to see their team lose in the Coupe de France in Belfort (3-1), two hours away from Place Stanislas.

A route they only took in reduced numbers and at the last minute, thanks to the suspension, by the Council of State that very morning, of the travel ban decided on January 15 by the prefect of the Territory de Belfort – and confirmed on the 17th by the Besançon administrative court.

Fantasy patterns and imaginary risks

By supporting supporters, the Council of State could set a precedent. In any case, this is a first for a decree of this kind, which has become so common – more than a hundred bans and restrictions last season.

The judge in summary proceedings of the Council agreed with the complainants, represented by the National Association of supporters (ANS), who considered that the order carried "A serious and manifestly unlawful interference (to their) interests ».

Administrative travel bans, introduced in 2011 by the Loppsi 2 law (law of orientation and programming for the performance of internal security), were intended to remain exceptional and to be justified by real risks of "Unacceptable public disorder".

They became "An easy solution for certain prefectures", notes sociologist Nicolas Hourcade, quoted by The Team. Some prefects don't even bother with appearances, with decrees invoking fanciful motives and imaginary risks, often published at the last moment.

On January 4, 150 supporters from Nantes discovered, on arriving in Bayonne, that the city center was forbidden to them despite the absence of a prefectural decree. Before being parked in the stadium until kick-off, they preferred to turn around with their coaches … surrounded by CRS vans which also blocked motorway exits.


Deemed liberticide, this policy has sparked civil disobedience on the part of supporter groups. In February 2018, ultras from Bordeaux had for example entered the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, with the help of local supporters, before being expelled from it.

But defying the prohibitions exposes another aspect of this policy. On December 21, a convoy of Nîmes coaches bound for Marseilles was escorted to the parking lot of the Costières stadium, where a police intervention awaiting them, in the midst of families, manifestly disproportionate.

Already victims of the League's disciplinary commission, follower of collective sanctions ("Visitor parking lots" closed, partial or total closed door), struck by the administrative prohibitions of stadium, the supporters of football became a category of citizens whose fundamental freedoms can be restricted.

As the dialogue progresses with the League, these expedients appear less and less justifiable. A first turning point was taken on November 18, 2019 with a circular from the Interior Ministry asking the prefects to limit and justify the orders.

Far from the German model

The Council of State thus stresses that the prefect of Belfort has not complied with the obligation, formalized by this circular, to organize a security meeting at least three weeks before the meeting. The message to the prefects and administrative judges is strong, the signal is positive, but a real inflection remains hypothetical.

Meanwhile, the tension policy has had disastrous results. It multiplies the risk of incidents, forces the deployment of disproportionate means, deprives thousands of citizens of their rights, gives a deplorable image and affects the affairs of Ligue 1.

The German model is often invoked in France, while avoiding being inspired by it. Formerly confronted with a large-scale hooliganism, Germany has favored concertation and management systems. The public authorities have assumed the management of tens of thousands of people on the move each weekend.

The incidents have become marginal, and the country holds the European record for stadium attendance. Happy Borussia supporters, who saw Haaland fold the match at Augsburg.


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