LAUSANNE: UEFA apologized to spectators for the first time on Friday for their “frightening and distressing” experience ahead of the Champions League final, saying no football fan should go through such mayhem. Thousands of supporters were unable to access European club football’s showpiece match between despite having genuine tickets, in chaotic scenes that saw the French police use tear gas at close range even against children.
“UEFA wishes to sincerely apologize to all spectators who had to experience or witness frightening and distressing events in the build-up to the UEFA Champions League final at the Stade de France on May 28, 2022 in Paris, on a night which should have been a celebration of European club football. “No football fan should be put in that situation, and it must not happen again,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
Spanish giants Real Madrid beat England’s Liverpool 1-0, but the match was completely overshadowed by the chaos outside the stadium. Before the game, thousands of Liverpool fans with tickets had to wait for hours to enter the ground, with police using tear gas and pepper spray on the crowds. Some Liverpool supporters said they feared being crushed after small openings were used to filter the queues. Many fans from both sides also reported being assaulted and robbed outside the stadium after the match.
Anger and uproar
The chaos sparked anger in Britain, political uproar in France a fortnight ahead of legislative elections, and raised questions about the French capital’s capability to host the Olympics in 2024. UEFA has commissioned an independent review led by Portugal’s former government minister Tiago Brandao Rodrigues and aimed at finding the responsibilities and shortcomings of those involved in organizing the final.
“UEFA wishes-and needs-to understand what happened during the course of the day of the final, and determine lessons learnt to ensure there is no repeat of the actions and events of that day,” it said in a statement. “The review will seek to establish a full picture and timeline of what occurred during the day, both within the stadium and the surrounding areas, including examining spectator flows to the stadium via the various access points,” it said as it published the terms of reference.
The review will go through the security, ticketing and planning for the final and will also look at fan meeting points. It will engage with UEFA, fan groups, Liverpool and Real Madrid, the French Football Federation (FFF), the police, the stadium operator and other public authorities. “Further information on how relevant parties can submit their testimonies (via a dedicated email address or an online questionnaire) will be communicated shortly,” UEFA said.
‘Putting the pressure on’
The review will start immediately and be completed in the “shortest possible time-frame” and then set out its findings, conclusions and recommendations. Once completed, it will be published on UEFA’s website. France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has faced accusations of lying after he blamed the chaos on massive ticket fraud, and has since admitted that the organization around the final could “clearly” have been better.
The Champions League final kicked off 36 minutes late due to the problems outside. The review is so far “the only investigation linked to the fans”, Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain told AFP. If UEFA’s communications “were not ideal on Saturday… the main thing is that it is there, and putting the pressure on” Darmanin, the FFF and the Paris police, “so they recognize that the supporters were victims of what happened”, Evain added. – AFP