UEFA doubles down on blame of Liverpool fans over Stade de France fiasco
UEFA has doubled down on its choice to blame Liverpool fans for the carnage which occurred at the Stade de France last month at the Champions League final between the Reds and Real Madrid.
Liverpool fans including women and children who arrived early for the match were tear gassed by French riot police, forced into dangerous crushes outside locked turnstiles and were denied entry to the stadium despite showing valid tickets.
The European football governing body has already apologised to fans of both clubs for the poor running of the match, but reverted to blaming supporters in a shocking hearing at the French senate on Tuesday morning as part of its inquiry into a fiasco which has dominated news headline in France for almost a month.
The organisation’s CEO of events Martin Kallen made a series of claims about fake tickets, ticketless fans gathering outside the stadium, and poor behaviour of supporters without providing any sort of evidence.
‘Risk evaluation before the match told us that there was a high risk of a pitch invasion and a high risk of a lot of fake tickets,’ Kallen said, without providing any detail about who gave UEFA this information. There is no example in modern history of Liverpool supporters conducting a pitch invasion.
UEFA’s representative to the senate also engaged in what appeared to be an attempt to re-write history. Despite no forgery problems being reported before, during or after Liverpool’s previous Champions League final appearances in 2018 in Kyiv and 2019 in Madrid, Kallen claimed there were.
‘We were warned a lot of people without tickets would try to enter the stadium,’ Kallen also claimed. ‘In the past two finals with Liverpool there were fans who wanted to get into the stadium with fake or no tickets. We knew that in advance.’ Again, Kallen provided no evidence to support UEFA’s argument.
UEFA is currently undertaking its own investigation into events at the Stade de France. Kallen warned that this process will take a minimum of three months, and the chastening nature of comments will do little to placate the concerns of supporters worried that the governing body will try to pass the buck to football fans in order to protect its own reputation.
Kallen did refute the claims of French minister of the interior Gérald Darmanin that up to 40,000 people with fake tickets tried to enter the Stade de France, saying: ‘We do not agree with the 30-40,000 fake tickets figure given very quickly by the French authorities. But there were more than 2,600.’
Even UEFA’s 2,600 figure is highly contestable, with fans with valid tickets including family members of Liverpool fans including left-back Andy Robertson’s family told that their legitimate tickets were fake by bamboozled stewards. Throughout the course of the senate hearing, Kallen made a series of admittances about UEFA’s ticketing process which suggest incompetence on the organisation’s behalf.
UEFA made use of a mixture of digital and paper tickets for the event, after speaking with Liverpool and Real Madrid. Kallen said UEFA had tried to convince both clubs to opt exclusively for its digital blockchain system, before letting slip an enormous fault in the system which renders it immensely insecure.
‘If you arrived without bluetooth active at the turnstiles then your QR code is not activated,’ Kallen said. This means that fans with legitimate digital tickets provided by UEFA were told their tickets were fake at turnstiles.
Furthermore, Kallen admitted that problems with verifying paper tickets were caused by a faulty pen. ‘There was also a technical bug with problems filtering and verifying tickets, with a faulty pen,’ the Swiss said. Again, this suggests fans with real tickets were told theirs were fake because UEFA’s ticketing system can be brought down by faulty highlighter.
In a press conference held after a visit to the Stade de France to assess its security, chairman of the senate enquiry Laurent Lafon said that every authority involved in the organisation of the match had failed. ‘The link with the French state is obvious,’ Lafon said. ‘Almost everyone failed at one moment or another.’
One senator even tried to engage Kallen on organisation failures, saying: ‘Counterfeit tickets were not the main problem. There was the transport strike, the flow management problems, the interventions of the police, the problems of delinquency around the stadium. Speaking only of forgeries is not right.’ Kallen responded to the interjection by continuing to blame fans.
Thousands of pieces of video evidence provided by fans contradict the claims made by Kallen, and previously by the French interior minister Darmanin and Paris chief of police Didier Lallement. Liverpool FC has collected 9000 testimonies from fans, and imagery appears to show patient groups of fans being needlessly tear-gassed and beaten by French police.
CCTV from the Stade de France was also ‘automatically’ deleted last week after it was not saved by authorities, leaving Lafon and co-chairman Fracois-Noel Buffet furious.
‘It is absolutely incomprehensible that not one person thought it might be a good idea to keep hold of the CCTV,’ Buffet said in last week’s press conference. ‘It is impossible, it is unacceptable. It is normal that we would have the authority to look at CCTV images like this. There are many things which pose us a big, big difficulty here.’
Representatives of Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters will speak in the senate later this afternoon.
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