Rival Supporter Clubs Unite to Help Force Out Paris Saint-Germain President

PARIS (AP) - The two main groups of Paris Saint-Germain supporters have clashed violently in the past. Even when they unite for a common cause there are casualties.

Team president Francis Graille is the latest victim fired Monday by the club's main shareholder Canal Plus. In February the Kop of Boulogne and Virage Auteuil groups united to get rid of coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

"The Canal Plus group has put an end to Francis Graille's function at the head of PSG'' Canal Plus said in a statement. "As majority shareholder for the last 14 years the Canal Plus group wants to give a new impetus to the club.''

Graille will likely be replaced by former Rennes president Pierre Blayau. Graille who had been PSG boss for less than two years was the team's fourth president since 1991 following Michel Denisot Charles Bietry and Laurent Perpere.

Graille had hoped to buy a 34 percent share of the club but his position was severely weakened by an ongoing conflict with Boulogne and Auteuil who sit at opposite ends of the Parc des Princes stadium and stand behind each goal.

The rival supporters are traditionally opposed because of political views -- Auteuil are left-wing while Boulogne leans right. Last season 53 PSG fans were injured at Strasbourg when the rivals attacked each other in the away end.

This season however they worked together to get Halilhodzic fired after a string of poor results.

PSG which hasn't won the league title since 1994 was eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League after losing at home to CSKA Moscow and soon slipped to 18th in the French first division. It has since recovered under Laurent Fournier and now sits in seventh place.

At the time Canal Plus urged Graille to distance himself from Halilhodzic. Instead he reaffirmed his faith in the Bosnian coach who is also a close friend. The pair worked together at Lille.

Boulogne and Auteuil then began a strike at Parc des Princes refusing to support the team while cheering when opposing teams scored.

If PSG scored both Boulogne and Auteuil would chant "Vahid Demission'' (Vahid Out) or "Francis Graille Demission'' (Francis Graille Out).

Halilhodzic was fired by Graille on Feb. 8 after a six-match winless streak and the ire of the fans turned fully on Graille.

Canal Plus wanted Graille to appoint a mediator to end the supporters' strike -- which was damaging the club's already tarnished image.

Auteuil and Boulogne were also upset when Graille refused to fire Jean-Pierre Larrue the club's head of security.

The strike was finally called off on March 20 and the club's fortunes have improved.

Canal Plus has invested US$284 million in seven years into PSG according to sports daily L'Equipe.

However Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke is investigating PSG for possible wrongdoing in 30 player transfers between 1998-2003 including those of Ronaldinho and Nicolas Anelka.


Saturday, September 16