Lyon blames Turkish 'hooligans' for crowd disorder
PARIS: Facing likely sanctions from UEFA after the crowd disorder that delayed its Europa League quarterfinal against Besiktas, French club Lyon said on Friday it was the "victim" of visiting hooligans.
Incidents inside Lyon's stadium - which will host the final next season - followed fighting among French and Turkish fans earlier in the city on Thursday.
About 20 minutes before the scheduled 9:05 pm (1905 GMT) kickoff, Lyon fans spilled on to the field for their own safety after fireworks were set off and missiles thrown from an upper section of the stadium housing Besiktas supporters.
The game finally began 45 minutes late after police intervened in the stands.
Lyon's deputy general counsel, Vincent Ponsot, admitted the club's responsibility in the disorder but insisted Besiktas fans created the trouble.
"As organizers we bear a part of the responsibility, except that it is clear that we have been the victim of an aggression that did not come from supporters, but from Turkish hooligans," Ponsot told a news conference.
UEFA later said in a statement it opened proceedings against both clubs, with the charges against Lyon including "insufficient organization" and a "field invasion." Besiktas was charged for the use of fireworks, throwing objects, and crowd disturbance.
Lyon's director of security, Annie Saladin, said about 50 Turkish fans forced their way inside the stadium and were responsible for the trouble. She said they threw projectiles from the upper stands, forcing other supporters to find shelter on the pitch.
"Even with 700 police officers we did not manage to contain this group," Saladin said. "They were determined and they got what they wanted."
Saladin added that, once identified, the group of violent fans was escorted from the stadium by police.
However, some Lyon fans also sought to confront their Turkish counterparts outside the stadium before the game - and then inside the stadium - with dozens clashing.
On the field, Lyon trailed until the 84th minute before scoring twice to seize a 2-1 victory. The return match is next Thursday in Istanbul, which has a reputation as among the most hostile cities in Europe for visiting fans.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said his club's fans have already been banned from traveling to Turkey for the return leg, a decision he called "unfair" and "illogical."
"I don't know what should be done: To play behind closed doors or elsewhere (at a neutral venue)," Aulas asked. "It would be very dangerous to take on this team (in the presence of) the same supporters as tonight. We don't really feel reassured."
Aulas urged UEFA "to take its responsibilities," and asked "for heavy sanctions against those who have injured our supporters."
In March 2001, fans of Paris Saint-Germain and Galatasaray fought running battles outside Parc des Princes then engaged in ferocious clashes inside the stadium during a Champions League match, leaving dozens with minor injuries.
In April 2000, two English fans from Leeds were stabbed to death during clashes before a UEFA Cup semifinal against Galatasaray in Istanbul.
The ill-feeling between PSG and Galatasaray still lingers.
Before the match between Turkey and Croatia during last year's European Championship in France - which was held at PSG's stadium - some 100 PSG fans tried to attack hardcore supporters from Galatasaray as they left the metro station, but were pushed back by riot police.