Mon, Oct 02, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Stadium barrier collapses, hurting 29

STADIUM OF THE UNICORN:The fence gave way after Lille fans pressed forward to near Fode Ballo-Toure, who ran toward the spectators to celebrate his opening goal


Staff stand by a barrier that collapsed on Saturday at the Licorne stadium in Amiens, France.

Photo: AFP

Twenty-nine fans were hurt, five of them seriously, on Saturday when a barrier collapsed at a stadium in the northern French city of Amiens as away supporters celebrated their opening goal.

A fence separating Lille fans from the pitch gave way as they surged forward to celebrate the goal against Amiens, a regional rival that has just been promoted to the top flight in French soccer.

Several tumbled about 1.5m and were crushed by other fans who fell on top of them. The injuries included head, chest and abdominal trauma, medical authorities said.

Referee Thomas Leonard suspended the match in the 16th minute as Red Cross and emergency workers rushed to help the injured. The fixture was later abandoned.

“It happened all of a sudden. I don’t even know who scored. It just suddenly fell on me. I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t see anything and then the emergency workers took me away,” said Georges Penel, a 21-year-old Lille fan who suffered injuries to his leg and back.

The prefecture of the Somme department gave a provisional toll of 29 hurt, five of them seriously. Among the injured were three minors, all in their teens, medical authorities said.

The incident happened when Lille’s Fode Ballo-Toure ran toward the section of visiting fans after scoring the opening goal, prompting a surge that caused the barrier to give way.

Built in 1999, the Stade de la Licorne (“Stadium of the Unicorn”) is the smallest of the 20 French Ligue 1 clubs, with a capacity of only 12,000.

Renovation work is taking place throughout this season, as newly promoted Amiens brings the ground up to a higher standard.

The venue boasts an eye-catching, futuristic design with a transparent roof, which is being renovated. The seats are also being progressively replaced under the 7.5 million euro (US$8.86 million) scheme.

Amiens public prosecutor Alexandre de Bosschere said an investigation had been opened into “accidental injury,” focusing on why the barrier gave way.

“We have put legal seals on the site [to bar access to it] and an assessment will be carried out in the next few days,” Bosschere said.

Club president Bernard Joannin dismissed any idea that there were problems with the barrier.

“The police had warned us that there were 200 hardcore fans, really wound up, who were in the section set aside for Lille fans. They surged forward, chaotically, more than 500 people, against this barrier, which was in perfect condition,” he said.

In May, French Legislator Alain Gest had said that upkeep of the stadium had been neglected by previous local administrations, but was now “perfectly in line with regulations” and “up to standards for playing in Ligue 1.”

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