Independent Panel finds UEFA and French Authorities responsible for Champions League Final Chaos, absolving Liverpool fans
The 2022 Champions League Final in Paris was one of the most eagerly anticipated finals of recent years. The game itself was not the spectacle it was billed to be, with Real Madrid edging out Liverpool 1-0. However, events on the pitch were to be overshadowed events by off it.
Fans were subjected to dangerous crushes, excessive use of tear gas, muggings, and assaults by local gangs. It was clear that the authorities were woefully unprepared for the event, and what preparation they had done had contributed to the chaos which almost ended in disaster.
Shockingly, the French police intelligence report on the Liverpool fans wrongly associated the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 with football hooliganism. According to a report by Michel Cadot, delegate from the French sports ministry, this shameful misconception informed the authority’s decision to deploy riot police and utilise the heavy-handed policing that Liverpool fans fell victim to.
Even before a ball was kicked, UEFA and French authorities began to deflect blame onto the Liverpool supporters. A message was displayed on the TV screen inside the stadium, explaining that the delay of kick-off was ‘due to the late arrival of fans at the stadium.’
This was simply not the case. Liverpool fans had been outside the ground in their thousands for hours. Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol stated that he arrived at the ground four hours before kick-off, and that he was “shocked at how many supporters had turned up.”
The issue was in fact caused by the funnelling of thousands of fans through narrow bottlenecks, and through minimal turnstiles, creating dangerous crushes.
The chaos continued after the game. Both Real Madrid and Liverpool fans were again subject to muggings, robberies, and attacks by local gangs. UFC star and Liverpool supporter Paddy Pimblett likened it to a scene from The Purge, as many of the gang members wielded baseball bats, machetes, and knives. Many fans have since stated that police were nowhere to be seen, yet another example of the gross neglect and lack of preparation that had put supporters’ welfare at risk on numerous occasions.
Charlie Pyne, a third-year student here at Leeds, was in Paris on that day. He told me about his experience.
After the game whilst looking for a hotel, he was attacked by a local gang and robbed, and was rejected from hotel rooms because he was bleeding. Whilst looking for a place, he was attacked again and ended up spending the night in the hospital. Charlie told me that ‘some people saw some pretty messed up things and the police did nothing about it’ and that Paris on that night was ‘one of the few places I’ve been where I felt unsafe.’
All the while, UEFA and French authorities continued to try and deflect blame from themselves, and onto Liverpool fans. The response of authorities in the days following events at the final only fuelled the overwhelming sense of anger and injustice amongst fans.
Take this tweet from Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, French Minister for Sport, after the Final:
Similarly, French Interior Minister, Gerard Darmanin, blamed “fraud at an industrial level,” claiming that over 70% of fans outside the stadium were either ticketless or possessed fakes. Darmanin held British fans entirely accountable for the problems, stating that “difficulties arose only from the entrance relation to the Liverpool supporters and not the other entrances.” His statement was strongly condemned by Liverpool and the French left and right wing. Polling found that 76% of the French public did not believe his statement.
On May 30th UEFA announced they were commissioning an independent report into events surrounding the final. The panel published their findings in a 220-page document on Monday 13 th February.
The panel concluded that there were two key organisational failures that led to the chaos. These were the UEFA ‘model’ for organising the final, as well as the safety, security and service model used which was used on the day, based on incorrect assumptions that Liverpool fans posed significant threats to public order. The panel made 21 critical recommendations to ensure the safe passage for all football fans at future UEFA matches.
You can read the full review, including all 21 recommendations issued by the independent panel by using this link.
Liverpool FC stated that it “welcomes the report into the chaos” and they have urged UEFA to “do the right thing and implement the 21 recommendations.” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has stated that he thought “Paris was the worst possible (choice) in that specific arena on that day.” Liverpool supporters’ group ‘The Spirit of Shankly’ said that they “expect an apology for the lies and smears UEFA so quickly aimed at supporters.”
UEFA welcomed the findings of the report, stating that they are “currently analysing the findings of the Review” and that it intends to “announce a special refund scheme for fans.” UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis said, “On behalf of UEFA, I would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded.” He also extended a further apology to Liverpool fans for “unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.”
However, the efforts of UEFA and French ministry members to deflect blame from themselves is shameful, and their ‘special refund scheme’ will do little to erase the horror witnessed by peaceful football fans that day.