Can French sports fans really take live cockerels into matches?

French rugby fans are renowned for letting cockerels loose on pitches in international games  

Famous French fan Clément d'Antibes holds his cockerel Balthazar at a France World Cup game in 2006

A symbol of French rugby since 1911, cocks, or coq français, have been known to be smuggled onto pitches before or after international rugby matches, providing entertainment for the fans as stewards desperately try to capture the deceptively fast creatures. 

Although this is typically against stadium rules, fans often hide them under their clothes, where the cocks generally stay calm because of the darkness. This happened in 2009, for example, when France took on the All Blacks in New Zealand. 

French fans became so renowned for this that police or animal welfare officers (RSPCA, SSPCA, etc.) would sometimes be deployed expressly to prevent it.

Read more: Why France's national symbol - the Gallic cockerel - is under threat

The practice is synonymous with international rather than national games because the cockerel is a symbol of France rather than of an individual club. 

The Connexion contacted several French rugby clubs and was informed that live animals were banned from the stands. 

Ultimately, it is up to the stadium but the vast majority do not allow live animals in due to health and safety risks. 

The rooster symbol also extends to football (and other sports). A fan nicknamed Clément d’Antibes became a cult hero at the 1998 World Cup, which France won, after being pictured in the stands with a cockerel named Balthazar. 

Clément Tomaszewski took Balthazar (after the original died, subsequent roosters would also be called Balthazar) to French games whenever he could, despite the risk of being turned away.

He was an avid France supporter and continued to follow the national team at all international tournaments, often buying a cock in the country he was visiting, including South Korea in 2002. 

In 2016, UEFA contacted him to say that Balthazar would not be allowed in the stadiums for that year’s football Euros. 

He claimed that 2016 was going to be his last year following the French national team, a claim he repeated in 2022 for the World Cup. 

It might, therefore, still be worth keeping an eye out for him in the German stadiums as this year’s Euros take place.

Even without live cockerels, you may still hear them at matches thanks to the free Parbleu app, which lets fans play the sound of a rooster for three or 30 seconds. As their slogan says: Faites chanter votre coq pour Les Bleus (make your rooster sing for Les Bleus). 

Read more: Hamlet’s ‘noisy’ cockerel can continue crowing, rules French court

The parbleu app can be downloaded here.