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Biarritz risk sanctions after post-match invasion

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Biarritz’s Fidjian lock Johnny Dyer breaks through the defence during the French Top14 rugby union playoff match against Aviron Bayonnais (Bayonne) at the Aguilera stadium in Biarritz on June 12. AFP

Biarritz risk sanctions after post-match invasion

Biarritz are facing an inquiry by prosecutors over a mass pitch invasion by rugby fans flouting Covid distancing rules after their derby win over Bayonne on the weekend.

The government’s top regional authority said on Sunday it was weighing sanctions against Biarritz for several alleged infringements of coronavirus restrictions, including the pitch invasion.

It said that the 5,000-fan limit was “obviously exceeded” for the evening contest on June 12 in Aguilera de Bayonne stadium.

It also accused the club of failing to systematically check that fans had a new Covid health pass and of flouting a ban on take-away alcohol sales in the stadium.

Biarritz countered that they had implemented “all the measures at its disposal to respect its health obligations” and that “there was no disturbance of public order”.

“The pitch invasion was the occasion for a joyful moment shared by people who were vaccinated and/or showed a negative Covid test before entering the stadium,” club president Jean-Baptiste Aldige said in a statement.

He called it “a happy interlude that was good for everyone in this stressful period”.

Biarritz were left rejoicing after the Basque club secured a return to the top flight of French rugby following a nailbiting play-off final against neighbours Bayonne that ended in a penalty kick tiebreak.

The post-match party after the evening game sparked new calls for the government to lift France’s coronavirus curfew now that people are again allowed to attend large sporting events.

Last week, the government pushed back the curfew from 9pm to 11pm, with a promise to lift it completely on June 30 if a dramatic drop in infections seen recently continues.

But bars and restaurants are urging it to end the restrictions sooner, saying the curfew will prevent them profiting from a highly anticipated France-Germany Euro 2020 football clash on Tuesday night.

The match is in Munich but Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said over the weekend that no curfew exemption was planned so that fans could gather and watch the game together in bars.

An exception was allowed however for the epic French Open semi-final Friday between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, when the government permitted fans to remain in the stadium past 11 pm.

In a sign of growing defiance of the rules, hundreds of young people in Paris defied police over the weekend with street parties.

“Nobody understands anything about all these rules anymore,” Jean-Luc Melenchon of the France Unbowed opposition party told LCI television on June 13.

“The desire to live is always predominant,” he said, adding: “Perhaps it’s time to consider lifting the curfew.”

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