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How France will tackle spike in football hooliganism

Football matches in France will be called off definitively if a player or official is injured by a projectile thrown from the stands, the government has said.

Marseille's French midfielder Dimitri Payet, surrounded by officials, leaves the field holding an ice pack to his head
Marseille's French midfielder Dimitri Payet after he was hit by a bottle of water. (Photo by Philippe Desmazes / AFP

Abandoning games one of a series of measures announced after meetings between Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and French football chiefs in the wake of a
spate of incidents in the French league this season.

The government decided action needed to be taken after a match between Lyon and Marseille on November 21st was brought to a halt when Marseille skipper Dimitri Payet was hit by a plastic bottle thrown from the stands.

“If a referee or a player is injured by a projectile thrown from the stands the match will be automatically abandoned,” the ministries of the interior, justice and sports said in a joint statement.

The authorities took over two hours to reach a decision to call off the November 21st match – it will be replayed behind closed doors.

The government says that is too long to deliberate and that decisions over matches that are halted for non-sporting reasons should be reached in no longer than 30 minutes by a group that does not include the presidents of the football clubs concerned.

The call to prohibit the presidents from the decision-making process comes after Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon president, received a five-match ban on Wednesday over his behaviour regarding whether the Lyon-Marseille match should resume.

“There will be a clear dividing line regarding the competence of the match referee and the police over the stopping of matches,” the ministerial statement said.

“A clearly thought out, unified and rapid decision must be reached.”

In addition, both the sale of plastic bottles on site and bringing them into the stadium will be barred “by July 1, 2022, at the latest”.

The ministerial troika – Darmanin was assisted by Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti – decided that the measures in place to bar supporters from stadiums were sufficient, but could be “better applied”.

Ligue 1 and tier two clubs must also have security measures in place from the 2022-23 season against projectiles being thrown, which the regional police chief can order them to install for particular matches.

No security net was in place at Lyon’s stadium nor at matches involving Marseille at Montpellier and Nice in August, when their players were targeted with projectiles.

Payet for his part had criticised the government and football authorities on Wednesday in an op-ed piece published by French daily Le Monde.

“I am surprised that the actors – the government, la Ligue, the clubs – do not assume a little more responsibility,” he wrote, calling it “a collective abrogation of duty.”

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CRIME

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

Hackers who crippled a French hospital and stole a trove of data last month have released personal records of patients online, officials have confirmed.

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

The cyberattackers demanded a multimillion dollar ransom from the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital near Paris a month ago, but the institution refused to pay.

The hospital said the hackers had now dumped medical scans and lab analyses along with the social security numbers of patients.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the unspeakable disclosure of hacked data,” health minister Fran├žois Braun tweeted on Sunday.

Hospitals around the world have been facing increasing attacks from ransomware groups, particularly since the pandemic stretched resources to breaking point.

The problem has been acute in France, where officials estimated early last year that healthcare institutions were facing on average an attack every week.

President Emmanuel Macron last year called the attacks during the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis” and announced an extra one billion euros for cybersecurity.

During last month’s attack, the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital shut down its emergency services and sent many patients to other institutions.

At one point, officials said the only technology still working was the telephone.

Rather than selling the trove of data, the hacker has dumped at least some of it for download on the “dark web” — a hidden part of the internet that requires special software to access.

Analysts said it seemed to be a tactic to put pressure on the hospital, even though public institutions are banned by French law from paying ransoms.

Cybersecurity researcher Damien Bancal, who revealed the leak and has seen the files, told AFP the worry is that other criminals will now launch scams with the data that has already been divulged.

In response to the leak on the weekend, the hospital severely restricted access to its systems and told patients to be extremely vigilant when receiving emails, text messages or phone calls.

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