The French government accuses Liverpool supporters. The English club are infuriated by the ‘irresponsible, unprofessional’ rush to conclusions. European football governing body UEFA will now try to find out what went wrong in the mayhem and chaos in Paris in the Champions League final before Liverpool lost to Real Madrid .
UEFA are starting to gather evidence on the troubles away from the Stade de France which marred one of the biggest sports games in the world on Saturday.
Liverpool fan leadership groups are already complaining of brutal policing and poor organization on a disturbing night that saw children and the elderly among those sprayed with tear gas.
Richard Bouigue, deputy mayor of Paris’ 12th arrondissement, said “the time for official denial is over, the time for apologies must prevail” in a letter to a group of Liverpool supporters.
“I deplore the dysfunctions in the organization of the game and the lack of maintenance of order which led to this real fiasco,” Bouigue wrote to the group Spirit of Shankly in a letter seen by The The AU Times.
There were also fresh concerns in Spain on Wednesday over organizational failings.
“It was a big mess,” said Madrid defender Dani Carvajal, whose family has faced security issues. “They have to learn and fix the mistakes for the next events that may happen in this stadium and hopefully everything will be better. But yes, in the end there were people who suffered a lot.”
Here are the key questions that UEFA’s review will need to consider:
The challenges of staging the final on just three months’ notice – Paris won the game in February after a decision was made to deprive Russia’s St Petersburg of hosting rights – was raised as a because of the chaos that has unfolded.
Having months, rather than years, to plan for the final was still enough time to prepare the hosting facilities and the stadium wrapped in a special competition brand.
There was, however, a lack of signage on the streets leading to the stadium and on the metro and train lines. While private security was at the entrances to the stadium, no volunteers were deployed to help supporters navigate unfamiliar streets and communicate as the lines grew longer.
What was the rationale behind the decision to gather the fans – mainly from Liverpool – in a narrow passage on the walk to the stadium from the underground, with police vans blocking off much of the space? Why were there so few police in and around the stadium for such a big occasion?
“The late arrival of the supporters” was the original reason given for the kick-off delay of what turned out to be 37 minutes. Yet there was clear evidence that many fans had arrived near the stadium up to three hours before the game was scheduled to start and simply found themselves stuck in barely moving lines. Liverpool fans, pressed against the gates and many fearing for their own safety, had not even been informed that the match had been delayed. This seemed to add to the panic as some thought they would miss the game.
UEFA seemed slow to realize the extent of the problems. Steve Rotheram, a Liverpool mayor who attended the match, said his mobile phone, money, bank cards and match ticket were stolen outside the Stade de France. He said he saw UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin in the stadium’s VIP section later and explained his concerns. “He seemed oblivious,” Rotheram said of Ceferin.
Why did the police use bottlenecks to control the flow of spectators? The review will need to look at the policing of the final, how they planned the dangerous route to the stadium from the train station and metro stops, as well as instances of brutality towards supporters using tear gas and pepper spray indiscriminately. in areas where there were children and the elderly. There is footage of the police deploying spray directly in fans’ faces.
Repeated allegations of brutality have plagued French police in recent years, including during protests by yellow vests against the government, as police call for more restraint.
French police have struggled to control fan violence at domestic matches this season. Was this considered when the event was moved to Paris after direct talks between Ceferin and French President Emmanuel Macron?
This is likely to be a key part of the review after French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said there was “massive fraud at an industrial level”, claiming that “70% of banknotes were fake tickets entering the Stade de France”. These figures were greeted with skepticism. Past and present Liverpool players – including Andrew Robertson – have said tickets they received through legitimate channels were not accepted at the gates. There were definitely counterfeit bills – the TAUT had an example. But the TAUT is aware of malfunctioning scanners unable to validate genuine banknotes. Were they considered false at the turnstiles?
Much like at Wembley Stadium last year when there was violence and mayhem in the crowd during the European Championship final, the stewards bore the brunt of the mayhem on Saturday as they were overwhelmed by a large crowd at the gates. Poorly paid and under-resourced, it seems unfair to expect stewards to resist the aggression and force of frustrated fans and others trying to enter stadiums illegally through checkpoints. Even as the chaos unfolded, some private security officials focused on the media, ordering the video footage deleted.
There are a growing number of testimonies from people who attended the final, detailing how they were assaulted and assaulted before and after the match at the Stade de France, which is located in a poor northern suburb of Paris. Local thugs seem to have exploited the chaos of the night. Some were seen fighting with police outside the stadium. Among those seen breaching the fences to enter the stadium without tickets were people not wearing Liverpool or Madrid colours, potentially locals taking advantage of overwhelmed security.
Spanish professional tennis player Feliciano López recalled seeing “delinquent gangs beating and robbing” fans.
“I saw how a person jumped over the fence to enter the stadium, the same one who tried to rob me wanted to sneak past the turnstile to enter the stadium,” López tweeted. “It was a complete mess.”
STIGMATING THE FANS
Reports say the crowd management issues brought back disturbing memories of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in 1989 which left 97 Liverpool fans dead. Hooliganism was rampant in English football throughout the 1980s, and there were immediate attempts at the time to wrongly blame Liverpool fans and defend the police at the FA Cup game in Sheffield. A false narrative accusing drunken, ticketless and rowdy Liverpool fans has been created by police. It took decades of campaigning for Liverpool supporters to prove there was a cover-up by the authorities who tried to blame them.
Now Liverpool fans are defying the authorities again, this time in France. Darmanin, the French minister, said on Monday that “this kind of situation occurs” within certain clubs in Great Britain, stigmatizing Liverpool supporters.
“All light must be shed,” said Bouigue, the Parisian politician, “on the responsibilities identified and the improvements made so that this type of chaos, which must have reignited the Hillsborough tragedy for many fans, does not happen again. Never again.”
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Following the Champions League ‘fiasco’, UEFA are investigating what went wrong and appeared first on the The AU Times.