As a new season unfolds in France, clubs are striving to improve the image of the game through a series of initiatives, with Paris Saint-Germain FC among the vanguard.
The capital side, who have a UEFA Europa League play-off first leg at home to Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC on Thursday, are attempting to offer supporters an improved experience as they celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.
PSG have introduced a scheme entitled Tous PSG (All PSG) to "pacify the Parc des Princes and restore the image of our club" after a rivalry between home fans in the Auteuil and Boulogne stands spilled over into violence.
The sale of season tickets has been stopped and supporters purchasing tickets are now allocated seats at random. Each ticket issued features the buyer's name and ID must be shown on entering the stadium. Most significantly, families and youngsters are being encouraged to attend. Some 4,000 seats have been dedicated to local young players accompanied by their coach, and a further 4,000 to a family enclosure, with women allowed in free and Under-16s at half price.
"These measures may result in a drop in passion, but I want this transition to happen as quickly as possible," PSG president Robin Leproux said. "Season tickets will become available again, once calm has returned to the Parc des Princes and we have got rid of those with bad intentions that hurt PSG."
PSG kicked off the Ligue 1 season with a 3-1 home win against AS Saint-Etienne last week – a match played in a noticeably improved atmosphere. "We were a bit worried ahead of the game, but they are really good fans," coach Antoine Kombouaré said. "They were very enthusiastic, there was no abuse. It is good for our players."
The measures are indicative of a wider mood change in French football since Les Bleus' early elimination at the FIFA World Cup. Following talk of an ever-widening gap between players and fans, there seems to be a will to return the game to the true supporters.
One of the first clubs seen to be taking a stand were promoted Stade Brestois 29, who banned players from wearing headphones. Brest president Michel Guyot said of the move: "If players get off the team bus with headphones on they will be fined. People are fed up with that."
France's national team as well as champions Olympique de Marseille and PSG have followed suit. "It's not exactly a ban," OM president Jean-Claude Dassier explained. "It's a recommendation I made to the players, saying that French football wants to enhance its image." Coach Didier Deschamps added: "Players should be aware of the example they set on and off the pitch."
PSG president Leproux, meanwhile, cannot stress enough the importance of the scheme his club are implementing. "If we hadn't taken these steps our future would have been in danger," he said. "The priority is to bring supporters from the Auteuil and Boulogne stands together. Everyone should feel comfortable in their stadium."
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