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France holds meeting to prevent repeat of Champions League chaos

France’s sports ministry will host a meeting of security and football officials Monday following the chaos that marred the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Olympics.

Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said they want to identify what went wrong to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s scenes outside Paris’ Stade de France.

The Liverpool club said it has called for an investigation into the treatment of its supporters ahead of the game, when thousands of ticket holders struggled to enter the stadium.

Police used tear gas and pepper spray on fans outside, while others managed to scale fences to access the stadium.

The scenes tarnished the image of the French capital, raising questions about its ability to host sporting events as it gears up for the 2024 sporting showpiece, as well as the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Oudea-Castera expressed regret that “some supporters who had tickets were not able to access the match”. 

Monday’s meeting at the sports ministry, due to start at 0900 GMT, will involve European football governing body UEFA, French football chiefs 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,” said Oudea-Castera.

‘Shameless attempts’

Her admission of possible shortcomings by the French authorities marked a more conciliatory stance, after officials initially lashed out at the Liverpool fans for the chaos.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Saturday “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 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.

The scenes caused outrage in the UK where the press and the politicians lined up to denounce scenes of mayhem they argued were caused by heavy-handed French police tactics more akin to controlling a violent demonstration.

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.

The Liverpool Echo newspaper argued that poor organisation and not the Liverpool fans were to blame.

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

‘Absolute disgrace’

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.

Aurore Berge, a deputy for Macron’s ruling party, said Paris had “barely three months” to get ready for the final, which it was awarded after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the event due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Police fired tear gas after several dozen people attempted to climb over barriers, according to an AFP reporter on the scene. Security staff had to round up about 20 fans who had scaled the fence and got into the ground.

UEFA blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for the chaos, which caused a 35-minute delay to the final, eventually won by Real Madrid.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement has called for a formal investigation into the production of fake tickets, which he said had helped caused the problems.

With half an hour to go to kick-off, thousands of Liverpool supporters were still massed outside the stadium, 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 on YouTube that what he had witnessed in Paris was “unlike anything I’ve seen at a football match before”, condemning “totally and utterly reprehensible behaviour from the French police who were an absolute disgrace”.

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