Final of the UEFA Champions League: Chaos in Paris intensifies French soccer’s security problems
PARIS — While the dust has yet to settle in Paris on Saturday’s events, the main talking point is the chaotic scenes at the Stade de France during the build-up to Real Madrid winning the 14th UEFA Champions League title. They beat Liverpool 1-0. CBS Sports reported that thousands were waiting in line for the delayed kickoff because of bottlenecks created by police vehicles at Gates U, X, and Y at the 81,000-seat venue.
As the situation worsened, tear gas was used on individuals and crowds. This resulted in the match being pushed back for more than 30 minutes. Liverpool expressed their dissatisfaction during the game and UEFA vowed to investigate the shocking scenes. According to the French interior ministry, 105 people were detained. Thirty-nine people were detained and are currently being held to face possible charges.
The French response has been varied, with the political line placing the blame on the overwhelming security of ticket-less Liverpool fans.
“We closed Gate Z for at most an hour because the Liverpool men without tickets were in front,” a cop told Le Cour. We could not push them back, because they were pushing ahead. They could also not be allowed in. We waited for authorities (riot police), to arrive to filter them. However, the order never arrived at the command post. There was no sign of anything. The Liverpool guys were calm and patient.
A statement by the local police to Le Parisien before the event revealed that an 18-month preparation period was required. However, Stade de France is not a stranger to major sporting events and Saturday’s chaos was unimaginable. Due to Ukraine’s invasion, the final was moved from Saint Petersburg to France.
One Parisian Liverpool fan was stunned at the state the organization was in for one of the most important games on the international sporting calendar.
He told CBS Sports that he lives here and visits the area multiple times per year to play rugby. “I have never seen anything like it, because of the strikes at [train line] REFB everyone comes through REFD, and it’s meant to not have that many people.”
It could not have been worse given a domestic season that was impacted by fan-related issues at multiple levels of French soccer, including a boom in clashes with hooligan-like behavior and a post-COVID-19 surge in fan-related problems. It isn’t just France and Paris, as evidenced by the harrowing scenes at UEFA Euro 2020 where ticketless supporters stormed Wembley Stadium to protest the final between hosts England & ultimate victors Italy. The Stade de France scenes have particular concern because the French capital will host the 2024 Olympics. This venue will house athletics and rugby as it is one of many multi-sport venues, which will require them to host events simultaneously.
Liverpool, their supporters, and the Merseyside Police were all in agreement as to who was responsible. UEFA initially blamed Reds supporters’ late arrival for the delay in the kickoff. However, they later stated that fake tickets had been used by many supporters to gain entry to the ground. Many people who attended the match claimed that QR codes were not scanning correctly, which allowed them to enter the stadium. This included Andrew Robertson, a friend and Liverpool defender.
Merseyside police dismissed the suggestion by Gerald Darmanin, French interior minister, that “thousands of” British visitors tried to enter the ground using fake tickets or jump over the fence. A Paris representative tweeted: “Can only describe this as the worst European match ever worked on or experienced.” The behavior of the fans at turnstiles was shocking and exemplary. You weren’t late 100 percent.
Most of those who attempted to remove the Stade de France barriers surrounding Gates U, X, Y, and Z within the hour before the game started, appeared to be local people. Liverpool supporters outside the stadium pleaded with those who attempted to clear the Stade de France’s barriers around Gates U, X, Y, and Z in the hour before the game began to not do so.
The good news was that those who managed to make it were able to avoid the worst possible outcome.
Ron Irvine, an 82-year-old supporter, said that Hillsborough is the only thing worse. Although I know it is not a good idea to use these words lightly, it could have been very bad.
After a three-hour wait to get into the ground, Malik Alam agreed with that assessment.
He said, “If they surge now, it’ll be another Hillsborough.”
Ninety-seven died in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, an accident at the Leppings Lane end Sheffield Wednesday stadium just before the FA Cup semifinal.
Liverpool calls on UEFA for an independent investigation into Saturday’s events.
Billy Horgan, chief executive of the club, stated that “what happened outside the stadium completely overshadowed [the game]”. The stadium entry and security breach were unacceptable. Moreover, our fans were treated poorly. We discussed this last night with UEFA and are now asking for an independent, transparent investigation. It is important to understand the circumstances and how they got there, which could lead to people’s safety being at risk. It is important to understand what happened last night. However, it is equally important to learn from it and prevent it from happening again.
British politicians responded to the demand. Ian Byrne was a member of parliament from Liverpool West Derby and said that supporters were treated like animals.
Sky Sports said he had never seen anything like it since 1989. It was horrible.
Nadine Dorries (culture secretary), was born in Liverpool and has called for a formal investigation into the causes of the problems.
Saturday’s events were part of an unfortunate culmination of decades of unfair treatment of French soccer fans. Away teams are often prohibited from taking their fans along by local authorities. There are many passionate rivalries in Ligue 1 or beyond. But those not from France may not be aware of the fact that heavy-handed policing has virtually eliminated these crucial fixtures from the calendar. This has in turn engendered huge animosity among fans.
Le Classique, the French game’s most famous fixture, is between Paris Saint-Germain et Olympique de Marseille. However, it has been unable for 10 years to host both sets of fans. This has diminished the rivalry and decreased the attractiveness of the national product. France’s obsolete approach includes blanket bans on spectators coming from the visiting area and wearing the shirt of an opponent team within the stadium’s vicinity.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was credited with playing a major role in the game being transferred from Saint Petersburg to Paris. Now he and his government will have to answer questions about what went wrong.