Champions League final: UEFA responsible for chaos before Liverpool v Real Madrid at Stade de France

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“I would like to unequivocally stress that supporters attending this match were the main victims of the disgraceful events of that day, not being their promoters or instigators.”

An independent report has found that UEFA bears “primary responsibility” for the chaos that took place before the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris on 28 May.

Football fans were tear gassed by police entering the stadium, and were penned in, with a “clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush”.

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Commissioned two days after the Champions League final, UEFA set up a panel of experts to investigate the abhorrent events outside the Stade de France.

The investigation looked into interviews and testimonies of numerous witnesses and key stakeholders, including fans of the participating teams.

Ticketless fans and people using fake tickets were initially blamed for the chaos and Liverpool supporters were reminded of the terrible Hillsborough disaster that took place in 1989.

The report cleared fans of blame, stating there was “no evidence” of a large number of ticketless supports and “assertions concerning huge numbers of supporters trying to gain entry without valid tickets have been wrongly inflated and exaggerated” in order to “deflect from responsibility for planning and operational failures.”

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The review found that “UEFA, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster” and “the parallels between Hillsborough 1989 and Paris 2022 are palpable.”

It added: “All the stakeholders interviewed by the panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe.”

French police and the French Football Federation were also blamed for the events.

Further findings

  • Attacks on supporters were not properly addressed in the planning stage: “Had the police taken a proportionate approach to threats, and engaged and properly communicated with supporters, the dangerous congestion may not have occurred, and there would have been no deployment of tear gas and pepper spray weaponry which affected so many innocent and vulnerable supporters.”
  • A disproportionately large number of Liverpool supporters were directed to the Stade de France Saint-Denis train station, three and a half hours before the game was due to start.
  • “Abnormally large numbers of passengers were flowing into and from the station” and “police were present along this route and took little to no action to identify, communicate or manage the emerging risks.”
  • Gate closures “exacerbated the dangerous congestion.”
  • Issues with electronic ticket machines.
  • Large groups of locals attempted to enter the stadium.
  • “The deployment of tear gas in this confined location was completely inappropriate as it was both life-threatening and disproportionate.”
  • Individual police officers used tear gas on “peaceful” supporters.

The investigation was chaired by Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues who said: “Unfortunately, the enthusiasm around the game rapidly turned into a real “near miss” which was harmful to a significant number of fans from both clubs.

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“This should never have happened at such an important sporting event, and it is unacceptable that it took place at the heart of the European continent.

“Since the first moments, as a football fan myself watching the game with friends in my hometown, I realised that what was happening should constitute a source of immense concern, profound reflection, intense analysis, and consequent action.

“The 2022 UEFA Champions League Final will be remembered as a moment of suffering for many fans but should also be a reminder of a situation we certainly do not want to witness again in the future at any sporting event in Europe or anywhere in the world.”

He added: “I would like to unequivocally stress that supporters attending this match were the main victims of the disgraceful events of that day, not being their promoters or instigators.

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“I would therefore like to respectfully thank each individual supporter and each supporters’ association for the clear and unhesitating way in which they have engaged with this review.”

Liverpool FC response

The report was set to be published on Tuesday 14 February, but was leaked on Monday, under two hours before the Merseyside derby against Everton kicked off at Anfield.

A Liverpool FC spokesperson said: “It’s hugely disappointing that a report of such significance, such importance to football supporters’ lives and future safety, should be leaked and published in this way. It’s been over eight months of work by the independent panel and it is only right and proper to publish the contents of the report to our supporters appropriately.”

Liverpool FC published a full statement on Tuesday, which reads: “Last night UEFA published the Independent Panel Report into the failings that we saw first-hand in Paris and it is within this context that we call on UEFA and others at the top of the football regulation pyramid to come together and take positive and transparent action to ensure there are no more ‘near misses’.

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“We implore UEFA to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the Panel – no matter how difficult – to ensure supporter safety is the number one priority at the heart of every UEFA football fixture.

“On the evening of the Champions League final at the Stade de France, even before the delayed kick-off was announced, we called on officials at the top of UEFA to delay kick-off and take control of the chaos that had developed outside the stadium. We also called on UEFA to launch a full independent and transparent investigation, in order to establish the facts.

“We knew that it was critical to understand why both Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters found ourselves in the situation where supporters’ safety was put at risk. We were determined to make sure a robust investigation was conducted in order that lessons are learned to ensure the safety of football supporters in Europe is never compromised again.”

“Shocking false narratives were peddled in the immediate aftermath of that night in Paris; narratives that have since been totally disproven. The independent French Senate report published in July 2022 found Liverpool supporters were unfairly and wrongly blamed for the chaotic scenes to divert attention from the real organisational failures. The Independent Senate report also published 15 recommendations for improvements. No action has been taken on these recommendations to date.

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“A further independent, 160-page report, using almost 500 eye-witness testimonies and authored by the highly respected critical criminologist, academic and author Professor Phil Scraton, concluded that UEFA had achieved abject failure in trying to meet its responsibilities.

“It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many. But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering. Our thoughts go out to all our fans who have suffered as a result of Paris and we would remind them of the mental health support we put in place in the days following the disaster that was the UEFA Champions League final in Paris.

“As a football club with proud history in Europe, we call on UEFA to do the right thing and implement the 21 recommendations to ensure the safety of all football supporters attending any future UEFA football match.”

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