Marseille owner McCourt backs club president after angry clash with fans

Marseille president Pablo Longoria has received the backing of the club’s American owner Frank McCourt after saying he was threatened during an angry meeting with fan groups (SEBASTIEN BOZON)

The American owner of French giants Marseille has given his backing to the club’s president, who is believed to be considering his position after claiming he was threatened in an angry confrontation with supporters.

Frank McCourt, the US tycoon who bought the former Champions League winners in 2016, issued a statement on Thursday following a turbulent few days in the south of France.

President Pablo Longoria and several of his colleagues all decided to step back from their roles to consider their positions in the wake of the meeting with fan representatives on Monday.

On Wednesday, coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who had only been in charge since June, quit the club.

“Pablo Longoria has my unwavering support,” said McCourt in a statement published by the Ligue 1 club as he said Monday’s meeting had “turned into an alarming demonstration of aggression”.

“Supporting the management, staff and players, who are the guarantors of the club’s continuing success, is and will remain my absolute priority,” he added.

Marseille said in an earlier statement that the supporters’ representatives had called on Longoria and his management team to resign during the meeting at the club’s training ground and claimed they had threatened “war” if that did not happen.

“I spoke for two minutes, then they cut me off and things very quickly got out of control,” Longoria said in an interview with local daily La Provence.

“They said to us: ‘You four resign or it’s war’,” he added, saying three of his senior colleagues were also targeted, including the director of football, Javier Ribalta.

Marseille fan group leaders have denied making death threats or calling for the coach to resign.

The crisis at the club comes despite Marseille being unbeaten five games into the new domestic season.

However, supporters were furious with their insipid performance in drawing 0-0 with Toulouse last weekend.

They went out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round, losing on penalties to Panathinaikos and dropping into the Europa League instead.

The departure of Marcelino, who was close to his fellow Spaniard Longoria, came on the eve of Thursday’s Europa League match away to Ajax in Amsterdam.

Jacques Abardonado, a Marseille-born former player and youth coach at the club, was due to take charge of the team against Ajax.

Marseille then face bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain away on Sunday.



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