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the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne narrowly avoids the tragedy after fire from smoke bombs and the invasion of the pitch

The cauldron overflowed. From the end of the match relegating ASSE to Ligue 2, Sunday evening May 29, the lawn of the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne was invaded by several dozen supporters. “Several hundred ultra supporters invaded the field and threw projectiles, fireworks, as well as smoke bombs in the direction of the public and the stands”, summed up the Loire prefecture in a tweet. Two hundred and fifty CRS police officers and mobile gendarmes were mobilized for the security of this meeting between AJ Auxerre and AS Saint-Etienne. The two clubs disputed the return of the play-off deciding whether or not to remain in Ligue 1. The two teams were separated on penalties, after two games with a 1-1 draw.

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“We knew that the pitch was going to be invaded tonight, whether they win or lose, it was a planned situation”, says a source inside the club. Authorities were expecting a rough evening, and access to the pitch is part of crowd management. When movements of the public travel through the stands, the security barriers can be lowered to avoid the dramas that football has experienced in the past.

But events raise other questions. Less expected, the numerous firings of smoke bombs and fireworks caused a dangerous situation, especially because they targeted players and the public. In the second that followed the last shot on goal, signing the defeat of ASSE, groups of supporters fired pyrotechnic devices aiming at the exit tunnel of the players, when the latter tried to reach the locker rooms in a hurry. “We were lucky at that time”, recognizes the framework of the club. No serious injuries are to be deplored.

“I freaked out”

Several dozen of these projectiles also reached the official platform. Images posted on social networks showed balls of fire at the foot of its bleachers. Supporters tried to force the gates to enter. They were repelled by security forces using tear gas. The sidelines were set on fire. All billboards surrounding the pitch were destroyed. The stadium shop was ransacked. While the AJ Auxerre coach held the post-match conference, spectators entered the press room to take refuge, in order to avoid crowd movements and smoke. “I freaked out, I took a lot of tear gas canister on the face”, Jean-Marc Furlan told reporters. The fumes spread to the changing rooms.

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