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French investigation blames Champions League organizers for failure

13 Jul 2022 | 17:00 | Football

PARIS, FRANCE - May 28: Police and management are seen outside the stadium as Liverpool fans line up outside the stadium ahead of the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at the Stade de France (Photo by Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – May 28: Police and management are seen outside the stadium as Liverpool fans line up outside the stadium ahead of the UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at the Stade de France (Photo by Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

An investigation by the French Senate into crowd chaos at this year’s Champions League final in Paris has concluded that the organizers are to blame, not supporters, for undermining claims. father of police and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

A fact-finding mission led by two senators was set up after Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid on May 28, which was marred by a delay, crushing, tear gas and street crime.

The investigation concluded that the problems were caused by a “chain of malfunctions”, including a lack of preparation by the French authorities and European football body UEFA, as well as poorly implemented security measures. .

“These glitches happen at every level, not only during implementation but also during pre-preparation,” co-chair of +investigative Laurent Lafon told reporters at a press conference.

The final report contradicts repeated claims from Darmanin that Liverpool fans are primarily responsible, with the Minister claiming that up to 40,000 of them arrived at the stadium without tickets or with tickets. fake.

“The first statements (by the Minister) do not match reality,” Francois-Noel Buffet, co-chair of the investigation, told reporters.

“It’s not because there are Liverpool supporters with their team that things go awry,” Lafon added, noting that thousands of fans without tickets were greeted at the congress zones. fan set up in the French capital.

Ticket holders struggled to get to the stadium because of a traffic strike and then found themselves congested and crushed at the entrance.

Faced with a surge of frustrated crowds around the Stade de France, police used tear gas and pepper spray to move them back, affecting many children as well as fans with disabilities sitting on a wheelchair.

After the game, supporters were preyed on by local gangs as they made their way to local transport connections, with many reports of pickpockets, thefts and threats as police watched.

The televised events are a national shame and are believed to have influenced parliamentary elections in June when president Emmanuel Macron lost his majority.

They have set off alarm bells just a year since the start of the Rugby World Cup, to be held in France, and the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Darmanin survived the recent government reshuffle and was given more responsibility as home secretary despite his claims, which sparked anger in Liverpool and tensions with the British government. .

Liverpool Football Club is particularly sensitive to making scapegoats for fans after they were falsely blamed for the Hillsborough stadium disaster in Sheffield in 1989.

The group of Spirit of Shankly supporters thanked the Senate on Wednesday for “welcoming the fan testimony and thus exonerating them from any responsibility,” but said this was not enough.

“We want the French government to apologize in full with a full retraction of lies made on their behalf and as of May 28, 2022 and will continue to lobby to get there. “, it said in a statement.

Darmanin, a law and order hardliner, issued his first apology at the end of June, telling RTL radio: “Things should be better managed in the Stade de France (stadium). )?The answer is yes.I am partially responsible” ? The answer is yes. “

The head of the Paris police, Didier Lallement, admitted during a Senate hearing on June 9 that the security operations had been a “failure” and offered excuses to fans who could not attend the match.

But he defended the use of tear gas to move fans back to the stadium, saying there was “no other way.”

The Senate committee did not propose any sanctions against the police or Darmanin.

“The role of a committee like ours is not to call someone in the government to resign,” explains Buffet.

Instead, its final report made a series of recommendations for authorities to improve security arrangements at major sporting events.

France will host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024.

The Senate report recommends that police develop clearer guidelines on the use of tear gas and adopt other crowd control methods such as greater use of body-mounted officers and water cannons.

Authorities have also come under pressure to explain why security camera footage from the stadium was not saved, eliminating a potentially important source of information for investigators.

“The pictures will always be missing. That’s our biggest regret,” says Buffet.

European football body UEFA is also conducting a parallel investigation into the incident that occurred after France’s bid to host the match was stripped by Russia due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.