Fans swarm pitch, throw flares at players after loss leads to relegation in French soccer league

·3-min read

Fans swarmed the pitch and launched flares and fireworks at home-team players after a St. Etienne loss on Sunday resulted in the team's relegation from France's Ligue 1.

St. Etienne hosted the game against Auxerre at Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium with a spot in France's top soccer league at stake. Auxerre won, 5-4 on penalty kicks after the match remained tied at 2-2 after two legs. With the win, Auxerre earned promotion from Ligue 2 to 1. The loss dropped St. Etienne to France's second-tier league for the first time since 2004.

As soon as the penalty shootout concluded, fans armed with flares and fireworks invaded the pitch and launched them at players. St. Etienne players, seen in the video below wearing green uniforms, sprinted to safety toward the locker rooms. Fans gave chase while throwing flares toward the tunnel.

Chaos continued after players left the field.

Police in riot gear took to the pitch to quell the scene. It wasn't immediately clear if the incident resulted in significant injuries for fans or players.

St. Etienne released a statement after the loss lamenting the "terrible disappointment" of the club's relegation. It was signed by team owners Bernard Caiazzo and Roland Romeyer.

"For the Association Sportive de Saint-Etienne, the 2021-2022 season ends with the painful sanction of relegation to Ligue 2, after eighteen consecutive seasons in Ligue 1," the statement reads, per Google translation. "We share the immense pain and sadness of all those who love the Greens, whether they are supporters or partners. This failure must be accepted. As main shareholders, we take full responsibility for this."

The statement made no mention of the postgame violence.

Riot police officers clash with Saint-Etienne's fans who invaded the pitch after being defeated by Auxerre at the end of the French L1-L2 play-off second leg football match between AS Saint-Etienne and AJ Auxerre at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne, central-eastern France on May 29, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP via Getty Images)
Riot police officers clash with Saint-Etienne's fans who invaded the pitch after being defeated by Auxerre at the end of the French L1-L2 playoff. (Photo by Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP via Getty Images)

Chaos at Champions League final a day earlier in Paris

Sunday's scene in St. Etienne follows a chaotic Saturday surrounding the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool. Police in Paris sprayed teargas at Liverpool fans as they crowded outside Stade de France trying to gain entrance before the match.

UEFA blamed the glut at the gate on "thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets."

"In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles," a UEFA statement reads.

“This created a build-up of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kick-off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access."

Liverpool's Andy Robertson described the scene as "shambles" and cast doubt on the fake-ticket claim, telling reporters that a friend of his that he gave a ticket was told at the gate that it wasn't genuine.

"One of my mates got told it was a fake which I assure you it wasn't," Robertson said.

Liverpool called for an investigation of the scene in a statement.

"We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced this evening at Stade de France," the statement reads. "This is the greatest match in European football, and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.

"We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting