UCL Chaos: Who’s to blame?
The chaos that ensued ahead of the Champions League game Saturday is the fault of English fans with fake tickets, according to the French Sports Minister.
How did the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid get delayed over 30 minutes and end up with fans being tear gassed outside the stadium?
Since Saturday’s events, the blame game has not ceased, with English fans pointing the finger at France’s poor organization and the French Sports Minister pointing the finger at English fans with fake tickets. Without being on the scene, it’s hard to say exactly what happened. From an outsider watching on TV, it looked like a bunch of unruly English fans trying to hop the gates to get into the stadium. Once you find out people were being crushed and tear gas was being released by police, however, that image looks a lot more like people trying to escape a situation. On Monday, UEFA commissioned an independent report looking into the scenes that unfolded and all parties involved.
How the UCL chaotic events unfolded
Kickoff was scheduled for 9 p.m. Fans were told to arrive early, and many did so. Merryside police officers reported that the Liverpool fans’ behavior was “exemplary” and that they arrived early and lined up, following instruction without issues. One problem began when a train line shut down, forcing fans into a single line outside the stadium. Around 8 p.m., the line began to bottleneck and fans were complaining of being crushed near one of the gates. One fan spoke to BBC News, saying that people had to lift others up over the walls so as to not be completely crushed. He also added that by the time he reached the police barricade, there were no more ticket checks - everyone was being let through. At this point, police were spraying tear gas, causing some people to vomit and run to nearby bars for water.
“It got really tight,” said one Liverpool fan outside the stadium. “People started panicking. There were kids, there were old people, and it was crushing.”
“It’s just decent people trying to get into a football match that they’ve got tickets for,” he said. “And have just been treated like idiots.”
Two of the main gates were closed, which only caused further issues, with more fans attempting to climb over the walls in order to get inside the stadium and away from the dangerous chaos outside. Fans with actual tickets struggled to get inside while fans without tickets took advantage of the chaos and tried to push through. The police, clearly overwhelmed, then used the pepper spray on “anyone who moved”, according to BBC News reporter Nick Parrot.
“This is the worst experience of my life,” said another Liverpool fan.
French Sports Minister blames “industrial scale” ticket fraud
The French government has implied that there were around 30-40,000 Liverpool fans without tickets who tried to get into the stadium. French interior minister Gerard Darmanin called it “industrial-level ticket fraud”. However, there were also several reports of actual real tickets failing to properly scan and being rejected.
Liverpool player Andrew Roberts said he had friends who were rejected from getting in with tickets he himself had given them.
“Obviously my tickets were through the club and somehow somebody told one of my mates that he’s got a fake ticket, which I can assure you definitely wasn’t, because it was obviously through me,” said Roberts. “Then obviously the French police decided to throw tear gas on fans and families and things like that. It’s not been well-organized.”
It seems odd that it’s only Liverpool fans who seem to have experienced any issues. French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera reported that the Madrid fans had no issues and that the Spanish side controlled their fans better than Liverpool, whose fans were “out in the wild”.
“We got tear gassed twice for no reason,” said another Liverpool fan. “Getting out of the ground, all the exits were closed. I think the police did this on purpose against the English and the Liverpool fans. It was a really dangerous situation. I hope France doesn’t get to hold another European final.”
Dangerous as it was, Darmanin claimed that the actions of the French police “prevented death.”
“The stadium stewards and the private security agents, who by their calmness prevented drama,” said Darmanin. “The decision taken by the prefecture evidently prevented deaths or serious injury.”
Oudea-Castera also insisted that the false tickets were the “pivotal, root cause” of the issues ahead of the game. She apologized for the people with legitimate tickets who were unable to get into the game and/or were affected by the events. When asked by a reporter, “why did you fire tear gas indiscriminately?”, there was no reply.
UEFA released a statement: “Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed. Upon receipt of the findings, Uefa will evaluate the next steps.”