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France seeks to ‘learn lessons’ from Champions League fiasco

France’s sports ministry was to host a meeting of security and football officials Monday following the chaos that marred the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, seeking to ensure no repeat of the scenes as Paris prepares for the 2024 Olympics.

Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, speaking ahead of the meeting, again placed responsibility on Liverpool for the mayhem on Saturday but also acknowledged that lessons had to be learned.

The French government has faced a barrage of criticism from press and politicians in the UK over police handling of the match, which saw thousands of Liverpool fans with tickets struggling to enter.

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.

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.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Paris police chief Didier Lallement will be in attendance.

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

‘Shameless attempts’

Oudea-Castera told RTL radio that Liverpool, in contrast to Real Madrid, had failed to properly organise the supporters who came to Paris.

“Liverpool left its supporters on the loose, this is a major difference,” she said.

The minister added that there had been 30,000-40,000 Liverpool fans with fake tickets or without tickets outside the Stade de France.

“We need to see where these fake tickets came from… and how they were produced in such large numbers,” she said.

She said “that the most regrettable aspect of what happened” was that tear gas was used against families and children who came to watch the final.

She insisted that France was capable of hosting major sporting events.

“I am not worried, I am very committed that we learn absolutely all the lessons from what happened on Saturday evening to improve everything” ahead of these major events, she said.

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 was 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 President Emmanuel 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.

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.

Labour MP for Liverpool area Ian Byrne, who was present in Paris, told Sky News that the fans had been treated “like animals”.

“It was horrific — there’s no other words to describe it. It was absolutely horrific and as someone who was at Hillsborough in 1989, it brought so many terrible memories flooding back,” he said.

In another instance of football trouble in France, angry Saint-Etienne fans invaded the pitch after were they were relegated from Ligue 1 on Sunday in their play-off against Auxerre, with French police using tear gas.

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