Fans attending Premier League games this weekend will hear a national anthem they may not know by heart but will probably recognize.
The Guardian reported that Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore consulted with all 20 clubs before announcing that a choral version of “La Marseillaise” is to be played after the coin toss at each Premier League match this weekend. The players will stand in the center circle with the match officials while it is played.
Images of French fans singing “La Marseillaise” as they exited the Stade de France after Friday’s terrorist attacks struck a powerful chord around the world and the Premier League gesture of one of several to be implemented.
“Given how close we are, as well as the long-standing relationship that exists between the Premier League and France, playing 'La Marseillaise' as an act of solidarity and remembrance is the right thing to do,” said Scudamore.
“We were all saddened and deeply shocked by the events in Paris last Friday, and the fact it was an attack on people enjoying their everyday freedoms like going to a bar, a concert or a football match resonates with football fans and the general public throughout the UK.”
The song was composed during the French Revolution in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle under the title “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” (“War Song for the Rhine Army”). It was adopted as the republic’s national anthem by the French National Convention three years later. The words, in French, will be displayed on message boards inside the stadiums so those in attendance can sing along if they wish.
Terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday resulted in 129 deaths and while security concerns resulted in the cancelling of Tuesday friendlies in Brussels and Hannover, the England-France match at Wembley Stadium was played as scheduled. Some English fans joined their French counterparts in singing the anthem, which got its nickname when it was sung by volunteers from Marseille as they marched to Paris.
Premier League clubs employ 72 French players, the most represented nationality other than English, and reaction to the decision prompted approval from several managers. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, a native of Strasbourg, said, “I think it’s a nice gesture of solidarity. It’s not an obvious one for the fans, just like it would not be an obvious one for fans in France to sing God Save the Queen, because they don’t know the words. Symbolically it’s a very nice gesture.”
Dutchman Ronald Koeman, the manager of Southampton, also gave his approval. “It’s a good, important show of support,” he said. “We have around 70 French players in the Premier League and it would be good support for them. It happened in France but it could happen anywhere. What happened was unbelievable.”
Extra security measures will be in place for matches this weekend. Teams are mobilizing with local police forces to deal with what Scudamore termed “a heightened sense of awareness.”
He said, “The clubs have been fully briefed in context of the current guidance from national security services and are liaising with their local police forces to ensure the appropriate security and safety measures are in place for their matches and stadiums.”
Precautions and tributes are in place. Added security in French stadiums and cities will prevent away fans from traveling to Ligue 1 matches this weekend. Players of Paris St. Germain will wear jerseys with the phrase “Je suis Paris” (“I am Paris”) just underneath the club crest.