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Thursday 29 September 2022
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France promises ‘in depth’ inquiry into Champions League final chaos

The government says that the sale of 30-40,000 fake tickets is largely to blame for the disorder outside the Stade de France, but also criticised Liverpool fan behaviour

French officials have met this morning to discuss what can be learnt from the situation outside the Stade de France during the Champions League final on Saturday (May 28), where police used teargas on Liverpool fans Pic: Oleg Batrak / Shutterstock

French ministers have called for an “in depth investigation” into the chaotic organisation of British football supporters attempting to enter the Stade de France for the Champions League final on Saturday (May 28), adding that the sale of “30-40,000 fake tickets” was largely to blame.

France’s Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra met today (May 30) with representatives from UEFA, the Fédération française du football, the Paris police and local authorities to “draw lessons” from the situation which arose when thousands of fans were prevented from entering the stadium.  

French police have been criticised for firing pepper spray and tear gas at Liverpool supporters who found themselves stuck – sometimes for hours – in long queues to get into the stadium.

These queues caused kick-off to be delayed by 36 minutes. Screens inside the stadium blamed this on the “late arrival” of fans. 

Some fans with valid tickets did not manage to get inside the stadium until a few minutes before halftime. Other people – who showed no sign of being Liverpool supporters, according to eyewitnesses – climbed over the fences outside the stadium and ran inside.

Following today’s meeting, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin stated that the government condemned “a massive, industrial and organised act of fraud,” which meant that “more than 70% of tickets” presented at the Stade de France looked very much like real tickets but were in fact fake. 

“We are sorry for the disorganisation at the British supporters’ entrance,” he added. “We have seen that we need to improve on our organisation of these high-risk matches.” 

Ms Oudéa-Castéra said that she has requested a “very in depth investigation from UEFA into what happened, how and why it was able to happen.

“UEFA has heard our request and we are expecting it to begin quickly.” She also stated that authorities would need to work on “the management of transport flows,” “first and second filtration systems,” “the fight against hooliganism” and against ticket fraud. 

“We have asked UEFA to work on a mechanism allowing for the reimbursement” of the 2,700 people with valid tickets who could not get into the stadium, she added.

Some “97% of Spanish supporters” with valid tickets got to their seats in time, while this was the case for only 50% of British fans.

Various different versions of events 

Before today’s meeting, Ms Oudéa-Castéra had suggested that Liverpool fans were to blame for the “regrettable” events on Saturday evening.

She stated that “attempts at intrusion and fraud” on the part of Liverpool supporters “made the work of stadium staff and the police force more difficult. Violence has no place in [our] stadiums.

“The fact that Real [Madrid] controlled the arrival of its supporters to Paris [...] differs radically with what Liverpool did, leaving fans to their own devices and creating a serious difference.” 

This was a view initially supported by Mr Darmanin, who tweeted after the final that some fans without tickets had been “violent” to stadium workers. 

However, other accounts of what occurred outside the stadium differ considerably. 

British police officers who were also present at the final have stated, for example, that the “vast majority” of Liverpool fans “behaved in an exemplary manner”.

Many affected Liverpool fans have insisted that they were not “late” – as the stadium screens claimed – but were made to wait for hours outside, claims supported by several British journalists who were present.

Sky showed images of a tiny passage about two metres wide, created by parked coaches, through which 20,000 Liverpool fans had to pass to access the stadium.

Times journalist Henry Winter reported that some supporters were so scared by the situation that they eventually abandoned all hope of seeing the match and returned to the centre of Paris, even though they had valid tickets. 

Another video shows fans being pepper sprayed while waiting in queues to scan their tickets. 

Associated Press journalist Steve Douglas said: “I got bundled into a hut by a security guard, told to remove accreditation, and then forced to delete video footage of the crowd issues otherwise I wouldn't be allowed back in.”

A Downing Street spokesperson has said that the UK government is “extremely disappointed” by the way in which British supporters were treated. 

“Fans deserve to know what happened,” they said, adding that UEFA should “work closely with French authorities for an exhaustive investigation” and publish their conclusions.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) has stated that Saturday’s events reflected “a lamentable picture of France,” and opinion pieces in several French media outlets have also criticised police management of the situation.

Ms Oudéa-Castéra stated before today’s meeting that she is not “worried” about France’s ability to organise and police big sporting events, although: “I am very committed, very eager to draw all possible lessons from what happened on Saturday evening.”  

Use of teargas was ‘regrettable’

Interior ministry spokeswoman Camille Chaize has said this morning that: “There was disorganisation, malfunctions that we need to analyse to draw conclusions and make sure that it does not happen again.

“The fake tickets which were sold on the black market were the real trigger.” 

When asked whether the situation could have been handled more effectively by Paris police, Ms Chaize said: “There are two things that need to be distinguished. The first was that there were many, many British supporters – around 70,000 in Paris – only 20,000 of which had tickets. 

“We created fan zones in Paris to welcome them. That worked really well; there were no incidents and we are very proud of that.

“The second thing was that in the area immediately surrounding the stadium, a filtering system put in place by the Fédération française de football did not work for the simple and good reason that people were arriving mostly with printed tickets. 

“So, stadium staff let them through and when they arrived at the scanning machine, it was discovered that the ticket was fake, bought on the black market, and that the people could not enter.

“This created considerable crowd movements. We have already seen situations like this with several dozen deaths in the past. We wanted to avoid this type of situation by removing some of the filtering barriers, which meant that a certain number of fans without tickets entered, and a certain number of delinquents who wished to steal from and attack [others].

Ms Chaize added that the police “needs to be more mobile, with more reinforcements readily available. [...] This is a big consideration for upcoming events, the Olympic Games [in 2024] and the Rugby World Cup [next year].

“What is certain is [...] that it is regrettable that people who arrived in good faith, families, were targeted by teargas.”

Ms Oudéa-Castéra stated before today’s meeting that she is not “worried” about France’s ability to organise and police big sporting events, although: “I am very committed, very eager to draw all possible lessons from what happened on Saturday evening.”  

300 to 400 youths responsible for violence and thefts 

“We had thugs [...] who saw the opportunity to fleece mainly Spanish and British spectators by stealing their personal belongings, mobile phones and wallets, and there were many thefts carried out on vehicles parked around the Stade de France,” a Paris police commissioner spokesperson said.

Jérôme Jimenez, spokesperson for the Ile-de-France UNSA Police, said that many of these people “were known to the police” and many were “underage”. 

It is thought that there were between 300 and 400 young people involved in these incidents.

Some 105 arrests were carried out after the evening’s events. There are 15 people still in custody, and none of them are foreign fans. 

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Ukraine crisis: Champions League football final moves to Paris

30 years on: Remembering France’s Furiani football disaster

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