‘Dangerous’ mascot eagle banned from stadium

'Dangerous' mascot eagle banned from stadium
The "dangerous" eagle in full flight before a Nice match this season. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP
French authorities have barred Nice football club's pre-match ritual of flying an eagle before each match on health and safety grounds, claiming the club mascot is a danger to the public. Nice are refusing to abide by the decision.

French Ligue 1 side Nice are furious at the professional league for banning their club mascot eagle from flying before matches.

The eagle was unleashed at Nice's home game against Lorient on Saturday night two days after the French Professional League (LFP) imposed the ban.

Nice started using the Royal Eagle from Africa at the start of the season when they moved into their new stadium.

"The competition committee told us Thursday that they were withdrawing permission given at the start of the season for this pre-match event, because they say the eagle is dangerous," said Nice director general Julien Fournier.

"We have decided not to conform to this decision which is questionable in every way. We will appeal," the official added.

The club vowed that the eagle will be seen at the two last home games this season.

The eagle flies around the stadium before each home game and then returns to the arm of its falconer in the middle of the pitch. It has become hugely popular and Nice fans and school children are choosing a name for the bird.

Before a recent league game against Paris St Germain however the eagle was made nervous by the capacity crowd and hid in the stadium roof. In a French Cup game against Monaco in February, the eagle perched on the crossbar.

The eagle is part of the Nice coat of arms and deputy mayor Christian Estrosi said the French league's decision had caused "incomprehension" in the city.

He called on the French league to drop the ban, insisting that the eagle was no danger as it was fed by its keeper.

Portugal's most famous club Benfica also have an eagle displayed before each game and Fournier said there had been no incident.

The eagle did Nice no good on Saturday, they lost 2-1 to Lorient.

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