Poor planning and mistakes, not fans, led to chaos in Champions League, report says

PARIS. Faulty coordination, poor planning and multiple mistakes by the French authorities were responsible for the chaos that marred this year’s Champions League football final near Paris, according to a parliamentary report released Wednesday, which criticized officials for blame the English fans instead of admitting their own shortcomings.

scenes of chaos and violence in the 28 May final between Real Madrid and Liverpool were described as a “fiasco”, and with Paris due to host the Summer Olympics in two years, the report called on French officials to dispel doubts about the country’s ability to host large-scale sporting events. .

The report indicated that the authorities were unprepared for the tens of thousands of Liverpool fans who had gathered at the Stade de France. the initial persistence of the French government that the dangerous crush of fans was caused that evening by the presence of fans with or without counterfeit tickets.

“It’s clear to us that things didn’t go wrong because Liverpool fans were accompanying their team,” Laurent Lafont, the MP who chairs one of the two Senate committees that conducted the investigation, told a news conference on Wednesday.

Fans were also robbed after the game by groups of petty criminals who took advantage of the chaos to try to sneak into the stadium and harass fans. The report notes that several police officers were sent to prevent crimes, as most of them were focused on potential disorderly conduct or terrorist threats.

Poor planning meant serious problems were almost inevitable, the report said. A “series of dysfunctions” occurred “at every stage,” Mr. Lafon said football officials, police and traffic authorities were “in their own lane with no real coordination,” not foreseeing large numbers of fans coming in and responding sluggishly when the crowd starts to pile up.

Chaotic scenes of fans climbing over stadium fences and families spraying tear gas during the game – the biggest club football match watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world – have seriously damaged France’s confidence in hosting high-profile events such as 2023. Rugby World Cup and Olympic Games.

The senators called on President Emmanuel Macron’s government to admit mistakes, change policing tactics and improve France’s strategy to secure major sporting events.

“We must not allow the idea that we cannot organize major sporting events to spread,” François-Noel Buffet, another senator who led the investigation, said Wednesday. “If the truth had been told immediately, we would not be here in two months.”

Gerald Darmanin, mr. Macron’s tough-talking home minister was quick to blame the chaos on between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans with fake tickets or no tickets at all – in the end, only about 2,500 fake tickets were scanned, the report said.

mr. Darmanin, who belatedly apologized for organizational failures that evening, said Wednesday the government would follow up on the report’s recommendations. These ideas include improving real-time communications between authorities for large-scale events, systematically planning alternative overflow routes to prevent crowding, and removing bottlenecks by finding ways to encourage fans to arrive earlier.

“There were not only dysfunctions, but also errors in preparation,” he said. This Darmanin told lawmakers on Wednesday, adding that the authorities “will take all measures” in preparation for future events.

The report accused French authorities of “an outdated perception of British fans reminiscent of 1980s hooligans”, leading them to exaggerate the threat of violent supporters and underestimate the threat of petty crime.

“The political will to suggest that the presence of British supporters was the sole cause of the chaotic situation at the Stade de France, perhaps to cover up a bad organizational choice made, is in any case unacceptable,” the French senators wrote. in summary his report.

Video footage from the stadium was automatically removed seven days after the game, senators said, because authorities did not request copies, a decision that showed shortsightedness and prevented them from accurately determining the number of stowaways.

Spirit of Shankly, one of Liverpool’s main fan groups, hailed the report, calling it a “clear message of support” to the Liverpool fans who attended the match. Many accused the French police of using aggressive tactics, including tear gas, on the night of the game, and were outraged when French officials placed the blame on them.

“The Spirit of Shankly would like to thank the Senate both for welcoming the testimonies of the fans and for exonerating them of any liability,” the band said in a statement. statement on Wednesday, although he added that he was still awaiting “a full apology from the French government”.

The report, which was written after public hearings involving government officials, local authorities and fan groups, acknowledged that several factors made crowd control difficult that night, including a strike on one of the main commuter trains leading to the stadium, and Larger than expected crowds of English fans flock to the stadium.

But the senators said the French authorities did not have adequate contingency plans and failed to adapt when the situation began to spiral out of control.

The report says stadium staff were not trained enough to deal with disgruntled or upset fans, and police and transport authorities were too slow to redirect the flow of fans and avoid bottlenecks that arose when a pre-filtering system designed to prevent terrorist attacks was disabled. . also used by stewards to check tickets.

The report added that there were not enough signs and staff to guide fans, and there was no system in place to inform fans of what was going on, including that the game had been postponed “which would have avoided a stampede”. get inside.”

A government-commissioned report last month reached similar conclusions and UEFA, European football’s governing body, conducts its own review. French senators blamed UEFA for its ticketing policy, arguing in a report that it should make “unforgeable” paperless tickets mandatory for major events such as the Champions League final.

Tariq Panja provided a report from London.