The head of Paris police acknowledged on Thursday the “failure” of security operations for the Champions League final last month and apologised for tear-gassing supporters as they tried to enter the stadium.
The football showpiece hosted by Paris on May 28 was marred by scenes of mayhem as Liverpool fans struggled to enter the stadium for the match against Real Madrid, raising questions over the capacity of the French capital to host the 2024 Olympics.
“It is obviously a failure,” Didier Lallement told a commission investigating the fiasco at the French Senate. “It was a failure because people were pushed around and attacked. It’s a failure because the image of the country was undermined.”
He said he was “sorry” for authorising the use of tear gas to move supporters away from the stadium before the match, but added that there was “no other means” of relieving the growing pressure at the gates.
“We needed to get people to move back,” Lallement explained. “We asked people to move back, then we used tear-gas… it’s the only way to our knowledge of moving a crowd back, except for a baton charge.”
He encouraged supporters from Liverpool and Real Madrid to file complaints if they were victims of counterfeited tickets or street crime outside the stadium “so that we can find the guilty parties and prosecute them.”
Lallement was also pressed on controversial figures given by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin who blamed the presence of 30-40,000 supporters without tickets or with fake tickets for the disorder at the stadium and delays to the game.
The police chief said he was responsible for the figure and he based it on numbers given by Paris transport operators and “feedback” from officers on the ground.
“Perhaps I made a mistake with the figure I gave to the minister,” he said. “I never claimed that it was absolutely accurate.”
He acknowledged that there were not 30-40,000 “at the gates of the stadium” but maintained that many thousands were in the vicinity.
These claims have infuriated Liverpool supporters, as well as senior British politicians, who have accused France of unfairly trying to deflect the blame away from the police.
Mayor of the Liverpool city region Steve Rotheram is due to testify to the Senate commission later on Thursday.