Battle lines drawn over Bastia ban

A controversial decision to shut down Bastia's ground until further notice is in danger of splitting French football along regional lines.

The league's disciplinary committee ordered the Corsican club's Armand-Cesari stadium to be closed after a series of outbreaks of violence they consider put fans and players in danger.

But that drew an angry response from the club, whose ageing sporting director Jo Bonavita announced he was going on hunger strike until the ban was lifted.

And the players were equally defiant that they would not let the ban damage team morale as the row appeared to divide the country along traditional lines, with the fiercely nationalistic Corsicans lining up against the Paris establishment.

Bastia president Pierre-Marie Geronimi accused the French league of trying to destroy the club.

"It's difficult to have a reaction to a decision which had left us speechless and stunned," he told AFP.

"They want to destroy the club. The president of the LFP (the French league) wants to destroy us brick by brick. It's scandalous. We will not leave this be -- we will appeal."

Bonavita expressed his disgust at what he called the league's "double standards".

"I will continue my hunger strike until this ban is lifted," he said. "The League and (president) Frederic Thiriez want to destroy Bastia and even if I am 73 years old and a lot of people have warned me of the risks I am running, I will carry on my hunger strike to support all those families whose livelihood depends on the club."

Key midfielder Jerome Rothen was equally defiant.

"We get the impression that Bastia are a thorn in the side of Ligue 1. The club and the players will not allow themselves to be destroyed and we'll be a thorn in their side for even longer," he said.

"All they want is to kill the club off. When I played at Paris St Germain, every time we travelled to Marseille, the team bus was pelted with stones. Much more serious incidents than those at Furiani occurred during those matches and Marseille never had their stadium closed down."

Rothen cited recent incidents when a bus carrying Lyon supporters was stoned by rival St Etienne fans and he said: "We'll see what the league have to say about that."

The Armand-Cesari stadium has been plagued by trouble this season and on Wednesday the Ligue 1 game with Marseille was played behind closed doors.

"It has become obvious that there is a great uncertainty that at any time can cause danger to spectators and players," said a statement by the league.

Thiriez weighed into the row on Friday when he added his support for the commission.

"In the wake of a series of serious incidents this season in Bastia's stadium, which could have had tragic consequences, and the fact that the LFP can no longer stand by but must face up to its responsibilities, the LFP president totally approves the brave and fully justified decision taken by the disciplinary commission," a league statement said."

Bastia's next scheduled home match, against second-from-bottom Nancy on Saturday week, will be played in Gueugnon, central France, where the stadium has a modest capacity of just under 14,000, the league announced on Friday.

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