France explains causes of Champions League carnage
Liverpool fans were blamed unfairly for the chaos that engulfed May's UEFA Champions League final in a bid to "divert attention" away from state and organizational failures, according to a French Senate report released this week.
The match, which Jurgen Klopp's men lost against 14-time winners of the competition Real Madrid, was delayed by around 40 minutes amid accounts of French police holding fans back from entering the stadium and teargassing some, including children.
Liverpool supporters have complained of being shoved, assaulted, and almost crushed in the chaos at the Stade de France, with others robbed by armed gangs following the defeat.
After gathering testimonies for weeks, the French Senate concluded in a report released on Wednesday that the lamentable scenes were the product of a "chain of events and malfunctions" by different authorities including the French state during the build-up to the final.
The match that was originally meant to be held in St. Petersburg before Russia was stripped of the showpiece because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The French Senate report found that Liverpool fans were unfairly blamed by French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin, who attempted to "divert attention from the inability of the state to adequately manage the crowds present."
It also said fans were let down by the French state’s "failure to curb" the conduct of "several hundred violent and coordinated" criminals who pickpocketed and robbed them outside the stadium in Saint Denis.
French police misjudged the English team's traveling faithful, and based the organization of their security for the Champions League final on a "dated vision of British supporters, harking back to the hooligans of the 1980s," which led to an approach that focused on "crowd control" of the English football fans.
There were "major shortcomings on intelligence", and instead of hooligans being present, between 300 to 400 petty thieves operated at the scene who should have been stopped by French intelligence after being spotted in the locale days before the final took place.
The Senate report also found that a "political will to make the presence of British supporters appear as the only cause of the chaos at the Stade de France – which was perhaps intended to mask the poor organizational choices – [was] in no way acceptable."
Furthermore, the Senate discovered that there was a failure to anticipate transport flows on the night of the tie, and a decision to have initial checks on ticket validity near the stadium led to checkpoints becoming dangerously overcrowded and blocked with some reports from fans bringing claims of being made to wait outside the ground in the heat for up to two hours.
While it was already known that the conduct of two French police officers was being investigated due to suspected disproportionate use of teargas on Liverpool fans, the report found that the substance was administered in an attempt to push back the crowds.
"This method, which affects people who are present, beyond those who are being targeted, appeared particularly aggressive to supporters coming from countries where it is not practiced," said the report, with the tear gas contributing "to a feeling among supporters that excessive force, or even police violence, had been used against them".
The senators in charge of the report and its inquiry said that the tweets on the night of the final, where it was claimed that the chaos was caused by Liverpool fans attempting to enter the ground with huge volumes of fake tickets, "did not correspond to the truth" and was a "partial and imprecise analysis".
Centrist senator Laurent Lafon told a Senate press conference that if given the chance to talk to Liverpool supporters, he would say: "Clearly we express our regret and apologies for what happened".
In Lafon's view, Liverpool fans were "really the victims of what happened", with it now a diplomatic imperative for French president Emmanuel Macron and French prime minister Elisabeth Borne to come out and "address a message to the spectators and authorities" over the Channel in the UK.
Moving forward, the report made recommendations for the organization of future sporting events in France, which should entail better ticketing procedures, improved training of stewards, and better coordination between stewards and the police.