Organizers blamed for UEFA Paris show fiasco


French inquiry blames organiser for Paris fiasco Image: Stade de France, Zakarie Faibis, CC BY-SA 4.0

An enquiry by the French Senate into crowd chaos at this year’s Champions League final in Paris (France) concluded that organizers were to blame, not supporters, undermining claims by the police and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

‘yahoo!sports’ stated that a fact-finding mission led by two senators was set up after the Liverpool-Real Madrid game on May 28th which was marred by a delayed kick-off, crushes, teargas, and street crime.

The 2022 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League Final was the final match of the 2021-2022 UEFA Champions League, the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organized by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. It was played at the 80,698-capacity Stade de France in Saint-Denis, France, on May 28th, 2022, between the Premier League club Liverpool F.C. (UK) and the Spanish professional football club Real Madrid CF (Spain). Real Madrid won the match 1-0 via a 59th-minute goal from Vinícius Júnior for a record-extending 14th title, and their fifth in nine years.

The UEFA spectacle on May 28th witnessed chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France, with supporters breaking through security cordons, jumping over large metal gates and police firing tear gas, thus causing a 35-minute delay in the start of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

‘yahoo!sports’ further stated that the investigation concluded that the problems were caused by a “string of dysfunctions” including a lack of preparation by French authorities and European football body UEFA, as well as poorly executed security arrangements.

The Co-Chair of the enquiry Laurent Lafon told reporters at a presser, “These dysfunctions were at every level, not only during the implementation but also during preparations in advance.”

The final report contradicted repeated statements from Darmanin that Liverpool fans were mostly responsible, with the minister claiming that up to 40,000 of them traveled to the stadium either with no tickets or with fake ones.

Francois-Noel Buffet, a fellow Co-Chair of the investigation, told newsmen, “The first statements (by the minister) do not match up with reality.”

Added Lafon, “It was not because there was Liverpool supporters who traveled with their team that things went badly,” noting that thousands of fans without tickets had been welcomed in fan zones set up in the French capital.

Those with tickets struggled to travel to the stadium because of a transport strike, then found themselves in bottlenecks and crushes at the entry gates.

Faced with the build-up of frustrated crowds around the Stade de France, police used tear gas and pepper spray to move them back, affecting many children as well as disabled fans in wheelchairs.

After the game, supporters were preyed on by local gangs as they made their way to local transport connections, with many reporting pickpocketing, muggings and threats as the police looked on.

The televised events were a national embarrassment and are thought to have influenced parliamentary elections in June when President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority.

They caused alarm bells just a year from the start of Rugby World Cup, which will be held in France, and the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Darmanin survived a recent Government reshuffle and has been given extra responsibility as Interior Minister despite his claims, which caused fury in Liverpool and tensions with the British Government.

Liverpool football club is particularly sensitive to the scapegoating of its fans after they were falsely blamed for the Hillsborough stadium disaster in Sheffield in 1989.

Supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly thanked the Senate for “welcoming the testimonies of fans and consequently vindicating them from any responsibility”, but said this was not enough.

It said in a statement, “We want a full apology from the French Government with a complete retraction of the lies purported on their behalf on and since May 28th, 2022, and will continue to lobby to achieve it.”

Darmanin, a law-and-order hardliner, issued his first partial apology at the end of June, stating, “Should things have been managed better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly responsible? The answer is yes.”

The head of the Paris Police, Didier Lallement, admitted during a Senate hearing on June 9th that security operations had been a “failure” and offered his excuses to fans that were unable to attend the game.

But he defended the use of teargas to move fans back from the stadium, saying there was “no other way”.

The Senate Commission did not recommend any sanctions against the police or Darmanin.

Explained Buffet, “The role of a Commission like ours is not to call for the resignation of someone in the Government.”

Instead, its final report made a series of recommendations to authorities to improve security arrangements at major sporting events.

France is to host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024.

The Senate report recommended that the police draw up clearer guidelines for the use of teargas and adopt other crowd-control methods such as greater use of mounted officers and water cannons.

Authorities have also been under pressure to explain why security camera footage from the stadium was not saved, removing a potentially vital source of information for investigators.

Added Buffet, “The images will always be missing. That’s our biggest regret.”

European football body UEFA is also conducting a parallel investigation into the debacle which came after France offered to host the game when it was stripped from Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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