The Ligue 1 game between Nice and Marseille was suspended for 10 minutes on Wednesday night after supporters unfurled banners displaying homophobic messages in the stands. Offensive chants were also heard on a hugely embarrassing night for the home club, whose takeover by the billionaire Jim Ratcliffe went through on Tuesday.
Ratcliffe’s brother, Bob, was present to see the match held up in the 28th minute by the referee, Clément Turpin, after the stadium announcer inside the Allianz Riviera had twice asked fans to stop making anti-gay chants, which were directed at the French league and began around the 17th minute.
One of the accompanying banners criticised the league for approving more fenced-off sections in stands. Its meaning translated as: “More fans in the stands means a more gay stadium.” The other banner referred to the takeover by Ratcliffe, who owns the Team Ineos cycling team. In French the term “pedale” means to pedal but is also used as a derogatory term to describe gay people.
“Welcome to the Ineos group: at Nice we also love to pedal,” that banner read, and Turpin acted after the supporters showed no sign of desisting. He spoke to both captains, Dante of Nice and Steve Mandanda of Marseille, the former leading his teammates to remonstrate with the offenders. They had little success and the teams returned to the dressing room while Turpin met the managers, Patrick Vieira and André Villas-Boas.
The players returned but there was a delay later when Marseille’s Dimitri Payet became the target of missiles as he went to take a corner. Nice’s Wylan Cyprien told Canal Plus he disagreed with the decision to halt the game. “We’re not going to stop the game each time some morons do something,” he said. “I’m against all forms of discrimination, [whether it’s] homophobia or racism, but you shouldn’t stop the match for so little. It’s ridiculous.”
Marseille won the match 2-1, Dario Benedetto opening the scoring shortly after play had resumed and Payet scoring a penalty after Cyprien had equalised from the spot. But the focus will rest on what appears to be a disturbing trend in French football. On 16 August a Ligue 2 match between Nancy and Le Mans was briefly stopped amid homophobic chanting and there were also incidents in last weekend’s Brest v Reims and Monaco v Nîmes fixtures.