Throughout their short history, Paris Saint-Germain have dealt with two different types of supporter in the French capital – the indifferent, and the violent. Unfortunately, they are far more well-known for the latter as the Kop de Boulogne has gained notoriety over the years for their hooligan tactics. The club was born in 1970 and it took barely a decade for the violence to become prominent.
Sadly, much of that violent behavior has stemmed from the fascist and racist tendencies of the Kop, a far-right group of supporters loosely affiliated with the National Front Party.
Interestingly, there are actually several factions of supporters within the Parc des Princes. The actual Kop de Boulogne (i.e. the physical stand/terrace itself) is populated by at least 10 different supporters’ groups, of which the largest are the Gavroches, the Rangers, and the Boys of Boulogne. However, the most notorious is that which simply refers to itself as the Kop de Boulogne and is comprised of far-right nationalists. Unfortunately, their misappropriation of the name of the stand for their group has resulted in anyone who sits in the Kop being painted with the same broad brush, effectively classifying anyone who sits at that end as a fascist and racist.
In order to downplay the image of PSG supporters as unpleasant people, the club decided to establish a supporters’ stand at the other end of the pitch, and the Virage Auteuil was born. That’s nice and all, but it hasn’t had any effect on the actions of those in the Kop. In fact, they may have made things worse as there have been several violent encounters between the various groups of PSG supporters.
The far-right members of the Kop are responsible for most of the widely-publicized clashes, such as: (1) the UEFA Cup encounter with supporters of Hapoel Tel Aviv which ended with the death of a PSG fan; (2) insults hurled at ethnic PSG players after two Arab supporters had been attacked prior to the match; and (3) unfurling a banner which referred to RC Lens fans as incestuous, jobless paedophiles. The latter incident even resulted in an order to disband the Boys of Boulogne by the French Minister of the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, although that only served to drive them even more underground.
The situation has been made worse by the club’s poor run of form, as they sit 12th place in the table and 12 points adrift of a Europea League spot. Violence within the Parc des Princes has gotten more and more out of control, culminating in a pitch invasion this past weekend after main rival Marseille scored their 3rd goal in a 3-0 lashing. More disturbingly, rival factions of PSG supporters clashed before the match, with a 38 year-old man currently in critical condition after sustaining a head injury during the melee.
The club has decided that enough is enough, and has suspended all ticket sales for away matches until further notice. Given that clubs will not sell directly to opposition supporters, most PSG fans now have no way to obtain a ticket for an away match. While this seems like a good way to restrain the violence emanating from the members of the Kop, there are two main problems here: (1) the club is unnecessarily punishing the larger majority of its fans who are able to control their own behavior and act in an acceptable manner; and (2) this doesn’t prevent members of the Kop from traveling en masse to an opposition stadium and causing trouble outside before or after a match. There is no easy solution, and this might be the best one, but it’s certainly not a perfect one.