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Government urged to fight hooligans

Saint-Etienne president Roland Romeyer has asked for government help in cracking down on hooligans associated with his club.

Some 50 of the 330 visiting Saint-Etienne fans that travelled to their team's game at Nice on Sunday went on the rampage inside the Allianz Riviera, ripping out and hurling more than 200 seats in disturbances that left 11 people injured, including a policeman.

Riot police evacuated all away fans from the stadium 15 minutes before the game, which Saint-Etienne won 1-0, kicked off.

The French Football League's Disciplinary Commission could, however, annul the result, and is likely to punish Saint-Etienne heavily, particularly as the incident comes after trouble at the recent derby against Lyon, with a fine and/or an order to play a certain number of games behind closed doors a possibility.

Romeyer, 68, told AFP he had asked the Ministry of the Interior to organise round-table talks between all parties in a bid to halt the rise of hooliganism in French football.

"It's not a problem unique to Nice and Saint-Etienne. It's widespread in football, a reflection of a society in which violence is increasingly present. We mustn't punish all fans, but only the trouble-makers and we have to hit hard," Romeyer, whose club had sent twice the recommended number of stewards with the travelling fans, explained.

"We have to punish those responsible and not just the clubs, because that's easy. I think about what happened on Sunday and I don't understand why there weren't arrests then and -- at the moment -- there still haven't been any."

Romeyer himself had inflamed the situation in the immediate aftermath of the game, claiming the Saint-Etienne fans had merely reacted to their coaches being pelted by stones from Nice supporters en route to the stadium.

However, CCTV pictures released by Nice on Monday taken from the stadium's underground car park show the coaches undamaged.

Nice have filed an official police complaint and will send the bill for the damage caused to Saint-Etienne.

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