Marseille’s game against Rennes in France’s Ligue 1 on Saturday was postponed after hundreds of angry supporters broke into the club’s training ground in a violent protest.
“Given the incidents this afternoon at the Olympique de Marseille training ground, the game between OM and Rennes is postponed to a later date,” the French league said in a statement posted on its website.
The fans, who were demonstrating against the club leadership and the team’s poor recent run of results, assembled in the afternoon in front of Marseille’s La Commanderie training ground, throwing smoke bombs and firecrackers.
“300 OM supporters violently attacked police officers present to secure La Commanderie,” local police in France’s Bouches-du-Rhone department tweeted, adding that they immediately sent reinforcements “to put an end to the damage” and saying they had made 25 arrests.
Later they added that seven police officers were injured in the incidents.
Sports daily L’Equipe reported that Marseille’s Spanish defender Alvaro Gonzalez was struck on the back by a projectile as he went to confront the supporters. AFP contacted the club for confirmation of that incident, but the club had not replied by early Saturday evening.
“We learned around 5pm that what had happened was so serious… that the match could not go ahead,” the Rennes president, Nicolas Holveck, told L’Equipe.
“It is incredible that people would take things this far for football. It is incomprehensible.”
Marseille were second in Ligue 1 when last season ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, they have lost their last three league matches and have slid 14 points behind leaders Lyon, albeit with two games in hand.
A 2-1 win for Lens at Montpellier on Saturday saw Marseille slip to seventh place. They have won just one of their last nine games in all competitions and are due to visit Lens in midweek before hosting fierce enemies Paris Saint-Germain next weekend.
On Friday coach Andre Villas-Boas admitted he expected to leave at the end of the season.
“The place needs a clear out… I’m responsible for the results and right now they’re awful,” the Portuguese former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach said.
For several weeks supporters have organised protests before home matches, which are being played behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Saturday an increased number of banners attacking club leadership, including president Jacques-Henri Eyraud, were hung around the city on motorway bridges, roundabouts and even the Corniche overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
“Follow AVB, get out of here”, “Parisians, get out of here”, “Give us back OM”, read some of them.
Eyraud, who was born in Paris, was a frequent target after he angered fans during a conference on management when he talked about the “danger” of having too many Marseille residents or club supporters working at the club.
“JHE: No Marseille fans at OM? Get out of here”, said one banner unfurled above a motorway, and “JHE, Marseille vomits you out” said another at the Prado roundabout, a few metres from the Stade Velodrome.