Le Graet slams poor pitches at Euro 2016 _ praises security

CLAIREFONTAINE, France (AP) — French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has joined the criticism over the poor state of pitches at the European Championship, saying Wednesday that some “aren’t suitable for the highest level” and urging French clubs to make improving them “a priority.”

France coach Didier Deschamps was unhappy with the quality of the field at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille for Sunday’s match against Switzerland and was scathing about the state of the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, where France played against Albania four days earlier.

Deschamps called the Velodrome pitch “a disaster” and laid the blame with officials who allowed a rock concert by AC/DC to be staged there last month.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday at the national team’s Clairefontaine training camp on the outskirts of Paris, Le Graet backed his coach.

“As for Lille, that’s a failure. I think it’s the right time to tell our French clubs that our league needs good pitches to play on. You can’t have so much difference between infrastructure that is fantastic — like the dressing rooms — and the pitches,” he said. “For our league to become better quality, it needs better pitches. It’s not that expensive but it’s necessary.”

Without specifically mentioning the rock concert at Marseille, Le Graet said football had not been taken enough into consideration.

“When a club organizes a lot of events that are outside of football, then they are taking risks,” he said. “Stadiums have been built everywhere for football, that’s their No. 1 role.”

He hopes a meeting of French club presidents next Tuesday in Cannes will resolve the ongoing problem.

Giving his overview of the tournament so far, Le Graet praised the security forces for their handling of the violence that marred the first weekend, when Russian fans fought with English supporters and riot police.

“It’s true that we were very scared. But you have to take your hat off to the security forces,” Le Graet said. “They are present everywhere: the police, the army. They have the whole of the Euro to keep an eye on.”

France has been in a state of emergency since the attacks in Paris last November, when 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

“(Countering) terrorism is their No. 1 mission. It’s been extremely difficult for those in charge of our security and the Interior Minister reacted quickly,” Le Graet said. “We feared after the attacks that people would not come. But there isn’t a seat spare in the stadiums. People from every country have come here. We’re incredibly lucky to host this tournament.”

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