France today finally apologised for the treatment of frightened Liverpool supporters in Paris for Saturday’s Champions League Final – moments after blaming the ‘disproportionate’ use of tear has on fans as a means to prevent crowd crushes.
France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin expressed regret over the organisation of the match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was marred by chaotic scenes over which France has been widely criticised.
Darmanin said the situation clearly could have been handled better, but argued the use of tear gas had prevented crowd crushes, while acknowledging that people including children had been hurt.
‘Clearly things could have been organised better. It is evident that this celebration of sport was ruined and we very much regret the troubles which were sometimes unacceptable,’ Darmanin told a Senate committee hearing about match security.
‘I am very sincerely sorry for that disproportionate use and sanctions will be taken’ against the officers involved, he added.
However, Darmanin also claimed that that Liverpool supporters did represent a public disorder risk, as he sought to defend France’s handling of the match.
‘It is clear – all the security services notes say so – that the people of Liverpool pose public order problems. Not all its supporters, but a small part of its supporters,’ said Darmanin, as he was questioned by French Senators.
Darmanin also told the Senate that two cases have been referred to France’s police watchdog regarding the possible disproportionate use of force during the event.
Spain’s Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the final.
Liverpool fans have said they were treated in a heavy-handed manner by French police and that the vast majority were not causing trouble. Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner has also demanded an apology from the French sports minister.
France today finally apologised for the treatment of frightened Liverpool supporters in Paris for Saturday’s Champions League Final – moments after blaming the ‘disproportionate’ use of tear has on fans as a means to prevent crowd crushes. Pictured: Fans in Paris on Saturday
Police spray tear gas at Liverpool fans outside the stadium as they queue prior to the UEFA Champions League final match between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Stade de France on May 28, 2022 in Paris, France
Meanwhile, French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera highlighted similar crowd violence at Wembley Stadium last year during the England versus Italy European Championship final, in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism.
‘We need to remember all of that,’ Oudea-Castera told the Wednesday Senate hearing, referring to the chaos at last year’s Wembley match.
France, and specifically Darmanin, has come under criticism both in France and Britain over how France managed Saturday’s game, with Liverpool fans accusing the French police of rough treatment in a dangerous crowd situation.
Despite thousands of Liverpool fans being funnelled through small, caged entry points, footage from outside the Stade de France on the night showed French police spraying fans with tear gas, causing panic among the supporters.
A number of people were also shown forcing their way in to the ground – many of whom have been reported to have been locals without tickets.
The French Football Federation has claimed 35,000 fans at the Champions League final were either ticketless or had ‘fake’ tickets to the event – a claim that has been disputed.
Darmanin told the Senate that one British fan was arrested for violence, among 14 British people arrested.
France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin (pictured Wednesday) expressed regret over the organisation of the Champions League final in Paris between Liverpool and Real Madrid, for which was marred by chaotic scenes for which France has been widely criticised for
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera (pictured Wednesday) highlighted similar crowd violence at Wembley Stadium last year during the England versus Italy European Championship final, in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism
President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, urged the French government on Wednesday to investigate with ‘full transparency’ the chaos at the match.
The mayhem outside the Stade de France has raised questions over the capacity of Paris to host the Olympic Games in 2024.
Darmanin has faced growing criticism and accusations of lying after he blamed the chaos on massive ticket scams.
Government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire said that the matter had been briefly discussed at Wednesday’s regular cabinet meeting chaired by Macron, who has yet to comment publicly.
‘What the president wants… is that light is shone on what really happened, in full transparency, and very quickly,’ she told reporters, while emphasising Darmanin had Macron’s ‘full confidence’.
She said Macron also expected action from the government to ensure that this ‘never happens again’.
‘Simply put, could we have done things better, could it have been better managed? Yes,’ she acknowledged. ‘Were there wounded, a tragedy? No. Can we improve things for future sporting events? Certainly.’
She confirmed that 2,700 supporters had been unable to watch the match due to the chaos.
Police officers guard the Stade de France prior the Champions League final soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, May 28, 2022
UEFA to refund fans
UEFA have promised to compensate 2,700 ticket-holders who were deprived of the chance to watch Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris.
The start of the match was delayed by 36 minutes as chaos reigned at the turnstiles with many Liverpool fans prevented from entering the stadium.
Some of those supporters were also pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed by French riot police.
Many were eventually able to access the ground after the match had started but others missed the game entirely.
‘We have asked UEFA, who have agreed with us, that these people be precisely identified and receive immediate compensation,’ said French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera.
‘The president of the republic and all his government are sad and sorry for these people who lost out.’
Despite the public professions of support, French media reports said that Macron was privately furious with Darmanin, 39, a high-flying right-winger.
The Canard Enchaine satirical weekly said that Macron had told Darmanin that what happened was a ‘heavy blow for France’.
‘We can say that he was furious,’ BFM TV cited a source close to Macron as saying.
‘The minister of the interior was expressly asked to step up and stop insisting that we were not to blame,’ the source added.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen suggested Darmanin should resign after he defended the French police and blamed ticket counterfeiting for the chaos.
‘The facts are extremely serious and the lie by the minister is extremely serious,’ Le Pen told France 2 television.
‘In any other democracy, faced with such a fiasco, with chaos that occurred in front of 400 million people watching on television, which offered a dreadful image of France, then he should consider himself that he should resign,’ she added.
The leftwing Liberation newspaper depicted Darmanin on its front page on Wednesday with his nose stretched out like Pinocchio.
A fan stands on the fence in front of the Stade de France prior the Champions League final soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, May 28
The newspaper’s editorial, headlined ‘Lie’, said the final ‘risks remaining in the annals of the republic long even after it has been forgotten by football fans.’
Darmanin blamed ‘massive, industrial-scale and organised fraud in fake tickets’ for the chaos and said that 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans had turned up at the stadium either ‘without tickets or with counterfeited tickets’.
He also claimed that as many as 70 percent of tickets were found to be fraudulent by staff at the first security checkpoints outside the Stade de France.
Sources within UEFA and the French football federation told TSTIME on Tuesday that only 2,800 fake tickets were detected at the entrance gates of the stadium, suggesting the problem was more about managing flows of people outside.
The scenes have caused renewed tensions between France and Britain, whose ties are already strained, and have become a domestic political headache for the government less than two weeks before parliamentary elections.
Liverpool’s chief executive Billy Hogan said the club have received more than 5,000 complaints from supporters in 24 hours regarding the chaos.
‘We’re aware there were many fans who were injured on Saturday evening and we’ve asked UEFA for their match day log, which includes any medical incidents for the night, so we can reach out to those supporters and families to help if we can,’ said Hogan.
Wednesday also saw a Paris deputy mayor saw that Liverpool fans have been unfairly blamed for the chaos outside the stadium.
Richard Bouigue, deputy mayor of the 12th arrondissement which hosted a Liverpool fan zone ahead of Saturday’s match, hit out in a letter to supporters in which he wrote: ‘The time for official denial is over, the time for apologies must be imposed.’
Mr Bouigue rubbished excuses in a letter to fan group Spirit of Shankley, saying that almost 45,000 of those same fans had visited his section of the capital earlier in the day and had been ‘friendly and respectful’.
Giving a glimpse of the organisational nightmare faced by officials after the match was moved from St Petersburg at the last minute due to sanctions on Russia, he said the 12th arrondissement was chosen to host fans ‘late’ and without any consultation.
‘I can’t hide the fact that many local residents and shopkeepers were worried,’ he wrote. ‘Stereotypes about English fans are hard to break. But you were able to reassure everyone, to bring a neighbourhood to life, to animate it with your songs, you enthusiasm and your good mood.
‘I want to thank you sincerely for that.’
In an open letter to a Liverpool fan group, Paris deputy mayor Richard Bouigue praised supporters for their behvaiour and laid blame with organisers
Revealing himself to be a Tottenham fan, he said he regretted not being a better host – insisting that locals, businesses and residents will improve ‘next time.’
He added: ‘That’s why I would also now like to express my deep regret for the serious incidents that took place at the beginning of the evening at Stade de France…
‘I bitterly regret that the Liverpool fans were singled out for criticism and that they were said to be solely responsible for the failure to organise the final…
‘Fans are not schizophrenic: Dr Jekyll in the morning and Mr Hyde in the evening… The time for official denial is over, the time for apologies must be imposed.’
Describing scenes around the French national stadium as a ‘fiasco’ that was reminiscent of Hillsborough, he blamed ‘dysfunctions in the organisation’ and a ‘lack of maintenance of order’ for the chaos.
‘At the end of this, you will allow me to keep the memory of this incredible Red tide that spread across our district, which proudly displayed its colours, and made its songs and hymns ring out. Thank you for sharing this moment with us,’ he said.
Mr Bouigue spoke out after a source within the French Interior Ministry accused the government of launching a ‘cover-up’ by blaming Liverpool fans, in an attempt to shift criticism away from themselves.