Sports

French government blames Liverpool fans, ‘massive fraud’ for Champions League final chaos

The French government is blaming “massive” ticket fraud and Liverpool’s handling of its fans for the crowd trouble which marred Sunday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid.

As the blame game over the fiasco continued into Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the scenes outside the national stadium — which included some fans, including children, being tear-gassed by French police — as deeply upsetting.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Liverpool had provided its supporters with paper tickets, not electronic ones, which allowed for what he described as a “massive fraud on an industrial scale”.

The minister alleged that more than two-thirds of the tickets presented by some 62,000 Liverpool supporters were fake.

“I want to say once again that the decisions taken prevented deaths or serious injury,” Mr Darmanin told reporters after holding an emergency meeting on Monday.

The match was delayed by more than 35 minutes as police tried to hold back people attempting to force their way into the national stadium without tickets. Some ticket holders complained they weren’t let in.

Television footage showed images of a small number of young men, who did not appear to be wearing red Liverpool jerseys, jumping the gates of the stadium and running away from security to get into the match.

But images circulating on social media before and during the match showed thousands of ticket-holders, including women and children, queuing for hours outside the Stade de France, with some tear-gassed by riot police when trying to enter the ground.

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Multiple witnesses, including dozens of journalists in Paris for the match, said ticket-holding fans were left stranded by organisers, funnelled into cramped spaces and forced to wait at gates abandoned by stadium staff.

The chaos was particularly concerning for Liverpool fans who continue to suffer the effects of the Hillsborough disaster, which saw 96 supporters killed during a crowd crush in 1989.

Police, organisers, and some major media outlets originally blamed fans for that tragedy, but a 2016 coroner’s report ruled that supporters were “unlawfully killed” due to negligent failures by authorities.

UEFA said on Tuesday it had commissioned an independent report into the events surrounding Sunday’s final.

Fans and journalists queued for hours outside the stadium, with some tear-gassed by authorities.(Getty Images: Matthias Hangst)

“The comprehensive review will examine decision-making, responsibility and behaviors of all entities involved in the final,” UEFA said.

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan had said the club wanted a “transparent investigation” by the governing body, while also revealing the club was exploring legal avenues available to fans.

“We have followed up on our request for an independent investigation with UEFA in writing,” Hogan said.

“We’ve also noted our deep concern about the false information that’s being circulated, while urging UEFA to agree to an open and transparent investigation into everything that happened on Saturday night.

“I’ve also read this afternoon in the media that there was a meeting this morning with French authorities and UEFA, and a number of other stakeholders. However, we were not asked for our input or to submit any information ahead of the meeting.

“We are also reviewing legal avenues available to us on behalf of affected supporters.

“So, I would say that all politicians and agencies involved in this event need to wait until a full and independent investigation is concluded before attempting to shift blame.”

A spokesman for the British Prime Minister said Mr Johnson was very disappointed by how Liverpool fans were treated in Paris.

“The footage from the Stade de France this weekend was deeply upsetting and concerning,” the spokesman said.

“We know many Liverpool fans traveled to Paris in good time … and we’re hugely disappointed by how they were treated.”

“We are urging UEFA to work closely with the French authorities on a full investigation and to publish those findings.”

Mr Darmanin said there were no problems with Real Madrid supporters at Saturday’s match, most of whom he said had received electronic tickets.

He said the Spanish side managed to control his traveling fans better than Liverpool.

He acknowledged that police were caught off-guard by local delinquents who turned up to cause trouble at the match.

But defending the security protocols in place, the minister said France had only had three months to prepare after the final was moved from Russia.

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Earlier, Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera to tried justify France’s use of heavy-handed policing by citing the crowd chaos that erupted when St Etienne were relegated from Ligue 1.

Ms Oudea-Castera, who accused Liverpool of letting fans “out in the wild”, has tasked Michel Cadot, inter-ministerial delegate for large sports events, with writing a report within 10 days outlining what happened in Paris and the lessons to take forward for the management of future events.

The crowd trouble has become a political issue ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections and embarrassed France, which hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and Olympic Games in 2024.

Reuters/ABC

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