DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Olympique Marseille's American owner has got a huge problem on his hands.
Frank McCourt may be known by many in the United States for previously owning the Los Angeles Dodgers. What may not have been known until over the past weekend is that he owns one of France's historic soccer teams.
Marseille was scheduled to face Rennes in a Ligue 1 clash on Saturday, but that was immediately postponed when a group of supporters for the Mediterannean team stormed their training ground.
According to reports, some 300 hundred fans headed to the facility and attacked police while throwing fireworks and flares. French police have so far arrested 25 suspects.
The reason behind the attack was that the fans have been angry with the performances of the team this season. They currently sit in ninth place in the standings.
McCourt, who had a turbulent period while owning the Dodgers, compared the scenes at the training ground to what occurred at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.
"Along with so many citizens in America and around the world, I have been shocked and outraged by the scenes of the Capitol being stormed by irresponsible people obeying injunctions beyond their control," McCourt said in a statement on the team's website.
"Misinformation and lies, spread by social media, achieved the unthinkable by shaking one of the emblematic centers of Democracy.
"What happened some weeks ago in Washington DC and what happened yesterday in Marseille follow a comparable logic: a few sources feed an inferno of opinions, invectives, and threats that are amplified by social media creating the conditions that lead to violence and chaos."
Marseille has a history that spans over 100 years, and in that time they have won numerous domestic titles. They also came into controversy back in the 1990s when a match-fixing scandal saw them demoted to the second division. This came on the heels of them winning their first-ever European Cup with their win over Italian giants AC Milan.
After returning to Ligue 1 in 1996 and receiving significant backing from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, it appeared things would go steady for the team as they looked to restore their reputation in French soccer.
However, the past ten years would be rocky for les Olympiens as they had several coaching changes and a number of players head for the exit.
It was then announced in August 2016 that McCourt had bought a majority stake in Marseille.
Things appeared to be on the up as they qualified for their first continental final in years when they lost to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League in May 2018. That was followed by a second-place finish in the COVID-19 affected 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season which put that back in the Champions League.