A ticket industry expert has told The Connexion that Liverpool fans’ preference for printed tickets is likely to be at the root of the “industrial scale” fraud which caused chaos at the Champions League final at the Stade de France on Saturday May 28 .
Kick-off was delayed by 36 minutes because of disruption at several of the stadium’s entrances, where Liverpool fans waiting in bottlenecks to gain access came into confrontation with the police and tear gas was used.
The chaos that unfolded at the stadium has been highly controversial, with several members of the French government and state representatives putting the blame on British fans while others denounced the handling of the organisation.
Some “70% of the tickets circulating were fake,” said Minister of Interior Gérald Darmanin in a press conference today following a crisis meeting at 11:00 to discuss the issues which surrounded the organisation and policing of the Liverpool fans.
The events of Saturday evening have also raised questions about France's ability to efficiently organise the upcoming 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Paris police prefect Didier Lallemant attributed the disturbance to a large-scale ticket fraud operation, which generated from “30,000 to 40,000 tickets”, in a report provided to Mr Darmanin and consulted by the Agence France Presse.
“Anybody can duplicate the ticket with the same bar code when it is printed on paper,” Eddie Aubin, president of My Open Tickets, a consulting cabinet for the ticket industry, told The Connexion.
Paper tickets part of British culture
The UEFA offered 52,000 tickets to football fans for the final, of which 20,000 were allocated to supporters from both football teams and 12,000 to the general public, adding on its official FAQ that no other websites were allowed to sell tickets for the final.
Mr Aubin said buying a sporting ticket event in a paper format was much more common in the UK than in France where digital QR-codes are often used instead.
He added that Liverpool had asked UEFA to produce the 20,000 tickets in paper format since the club was not technically able to handle the blockchain technology used by the UEFA for that event.
While the blockchain-technology guarantees against attempts at fraud through a complex technological system, the production of several thousand paper tickets opens the door to greater risks for black market sales, said Mr Aubin.
A group of Liverpool fans were scammed out of £19,000 – 19 tickets bought at £1,000 each – when they bought fake Champions League final tickets online, reported The Mirror days before the final, adding that 60,000 Liverpool fans were expected by French officials.
Doubts on the actual number of scam tickets
The 30-40,000 fake ticket figure suggested by Mr Lallemant is hard to verify as estimations vary on the number of Liverpool fans having got into the stadium or travelled to Paris.
Mr Aubin casted doubts on the number of fake tickets circulating based on the information he gathered, without giving a precise number of a range.
“40,000 fake tickets means a $20million scam. This would have been promoted by an organised crime gang, something that I am having difficulty believing,” said Mr Aubin.
“Opportunistic sellers must have felt they could benefit from a financial bonanza,” he said.
Linda Kebbab of the Unité SGP Police-Force Ouvrière union told BFMTV that many tickets were displaying the same names and bar codes.
[Edit: This article was updated to remove a paragraph wrongfully stating that websites such as Reelax Tickets, Ticket Swap and Stub Hub were selling tickets for the UCL's final. Nothing indicates that]