French officials under fire after unrest before Champions League final

japan times

French authorities faced questions over police tactics at the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid that descended into scenes of chaos before kickoff in Paris on Saturday, with critics asking if the capital was ready to host the 2024 Olympics.

Liverpool called for an investigation into the treatment of its supporters ahead of the game at Paris’ Stade de France on Saturday, which the club said left thousands with tickets struggling to enter the stadium.

The chaos outside France’s national stadium caused the match to be delayed by over 30 minutes. Real Madrid eventually won the final 1-0.

The scenes — which saw some fans scale fences to get into the stadium and police use tear gas — were not what the French capital wanted to see two years before it hosts the Olympics and one year before the same venue hosts the rugby World Cup final.

Amelie Oudea-Castera, France’s sports minister, expressed regret that “some supporters who had tickets were not able to access the match” and called a meeting Monday with UEFA and the French police.

“The priority now is to identify very precisely what went wrong … in order to learn all the lessons so that such incidents do not happen again at our future major international sporting events,” she said.

The French interior ministry said 105 people were detained, with 39 placed under arrest and remained in custody, meaning they could face charges.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for the 35-minute delay to the final.

Liverpool said it was “hugely disappointed” that its supporters had been subjected to an “unacceptable” breakdown of the security perimeter.

“We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues,” the club said.

Merseyside Police, which had officers deployed in Paris, said “the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner.”

Nadine Dorries, Britain’s culture secretary, urged UEFA to launch “a formal investigation into what went wrong and why.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, however, pointed the finger at Liverpool fans, saying “thousands of British ‘supporters’ either without tickets or with fake ones forced their way through and sometimes behaved violently towards the stewards.”

Political foes of French President Emmanuel Macron said the scene pointed to wider problems in France.

“The image this gives is lamentable and it is also worrying because we see that we are not prepared for events like the Olympic Games,” far-left French politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said.

He denounced “a complete failure of the police strategy … the people were treated as they usually are during any kind of demonstration. We can’t continue like this.”

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said the world had seen that “France is no longer able to organize major events without things degenerating.”

“From party to fiasco,” said leading French sports daily L’Equipe.

The Liverpool Echo newspaper argued that poor organization, and not Liverpool fans, was to blame.

“UEFA’s shameless attempts to control (the) Liverpool narrative show they’ll never learn after Champions League disgrace,” it said.

Aurore Berge, a deputy for Macron’s ruling party, said Paris had “barely three months” to get ready for the final. The match was originally scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia, but was moved due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Police fired tear gas after several dozen people attempted to climb over barriers, with security staff having to round up about 20 fans who succeeded in scaling the fence and getting into the ground.

Thousands of Liverpool supporters were still gathered outside the stadium with 30 minutes until the start, inevitably bringing back memories for a club haunted by the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster where 97 people were killed in a crush.

One fan, Paul Machin, said in a YouTube video that what he witnessed in Paris was “unlike anything I’ve seen at a football match before”, condemning “totally and utterly reprehensible behavior from the French police who were an absolute disgrace.”

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September 2022
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