French authorities and UEFA faced questions Sunday over the handling of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris which descended into scenes of chaos before kick-off as English fans struggled to enter the stadium.
Liverpool called for an investigation into the treatment of their supporters ahead of the game at the Stade de France on Saturday but European football’s governing body UEFA blamed a problem with fake tickets while the French interior minister criticised the behaviour of the English fans.
The chaos outside France’s national stadium in Paris prompted the kick-off to be delayed by over half an hour before the match was eventually won 1-0 by the Spanish side.
But the scenes — which saw some fans manage to vault into the stadium while evading security and police use tear gas — were not what the French capital wanted two years before it hosts the 2024 Olympics and one year before the same venue hosts the rugby World Cup final.
The French interior ministry said 105 people had been detained, of whom 39 were placed under arrest and remanded in custody meaning they could face charges.
UEFA blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for the 35-minute delay to the final.
But Liverpool said they were “hugely disappointed” that their 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.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin 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”.
But political foes of the government and President Emmanuel Macron said that the scenes pointed to wider problems in France and shamed the country.
“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 told BFM-TV.
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 told RTL that the world had seen on Saturday that “France is no longer able to organise major events without things degenerating.”
French newspaper Le Monde commented: “The party that was supposed to precede the final… was spoilt and turned into real chaos.”
“From party to fiasco,” said France’s leading sports daily L’Equipe.
Merseyside’s leading regional newspaper the Liverpool Echo argued that poor organisation and not the Liverpool fans were to blame.
“UEFA’s shameless attempts to control (the) Liverpool narrative show they’ll never learn after Champions League disgrace,” it said.
Police fired tear gas after several dozen people attempted to climb over barriers, according to an AFP reporter on the scene, with security staff having to round up about 20 fans who succeeded in clearing the fence and getting into the ground.
Thousands of mainly Liverpool supporters were still massed outside the stadium with half an hour to go to kick-off.
UEFA said they were “sympathetic” to the fans affected and would review the situation together with local police and authorities, as well as the French Football Federation.
Liverpool fans were incensed, including Pete Blades, who said he had felt he was revisiting the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, which cost the lives of 97 Liverpool fans in a stadium crush during an English cup game.
“I’m really stressed, I’m a teacher, I never got pepper sprayed,” Blades told AFP after the match.
“I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m not a threat. The police pushed me at the door, that wasn’t necessary, a girl’s nose was bleeding.”
In contrast to the scenes outside the stadium, Paris police noted that proceedings at two vast fans zones hosting thousands of supporters from both sides had taken place in a good atmosphere and without major incident.
Some 40,000 Liverpool supporters without a match ticket had packed into their zone in eastern Paris to enjoy the atmosphere. Despite the disappointment of defeat they left the area without any issue.
The Paris fire brigade — which looks after all kinds of emergency situations — said the night had largely been calm although it had treated some supporters for the effects of tear gas as well as excess alcohol consumption.