Controversy escalated on Sunday over the responsibilities of each in the organizational issues of the Champions League final at the Stade de France, with feared ramifications for the image two years after the Paris Olympics.
The prestigious European final, held in Paris on Saturday and won by Real Madrid against Liverpool (1-0), was marked by chaotic scenes around the Stade de France. However, according to the authorities’ report, they did not cause any serious injuries.
It’s a rare decision, if not unprecedented, in the history of the prestigious Champions League: the kick-off of the most important match of the year, watched around the world, was delayed by 36 minutes.
In the greatest confusion, Real Madrid and Liverpool players had to return to the changing rooms when the kick-off was scheduled to take place at 9 p.m., while spectators and journalists wondered the reasons for the delay.
Champions League: Real Madrid crowned for the 14th time
Summary of a restless evening
One hundred and five people were arrested and 39 placed in police custody on Saturday night in Paris during the evening of the Champions League final, citing incidents surrounding the entrance to the Stade de France, according to a new report from the Interior Ministry.
According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, about 20 people have been arrested, mainly for violence and theft on public roads near the “fan zones”. One of those arrested is heard for trying to sell fake tickets to the match.
The security system – 6,800 police officers, gendarmes and firefighters and a large number of private security officers – was to serve as a test for the Rugby World Cup hosted by France in 2023 and for the Paris Olympics the following year.
Because Paris hadn’t seen so many football supporters since Euro-2016, including 20,000 “fans” of the Reds with a ticket to the final, the same contingent as that allocated to Madrid.
Called the fire brigade of Paris for its part “a fairly quiet evening” in terms of support.
A total of 238 people were taken care of by the various emergency services at one time of the day, for “relative emergencies” ranging from drunkenness or minor accidents, including tear gas poisoning, a spokesman for the Paris fire brigade told AFP.
What happened ?
Less than half an hour before the start of the game, the atmosphere became tense when at least a thousand supporters were slowed down before they could enter, restrained by the gendarmes. Annoyed, they shouted “open the gate (“open the gate”), while the supporters could only pass one by one.
Fans in attendance and AFP journalists noted the presence of gangs of young people and unidentified local football fans before the game who tried to enter the perimeter fence without a ticket.
“By applying strong pressure to enter the perimeter fence, these supporters delayed entry to spectators with tickets. Taking advantage of this action, a certain number of people managed to cross the gates protecting the stadium perimeter fence”added the prefecture of police.
It’s the biggest game in European football and fans shouldn’t experience the kind of scene we witnessed this (Saturday) night
Press release from the Liverpool club
Police intervened, dispersing the crowd and passing supporters, including families, with tear gas.
“The quick intervention of the police allowed the calm and the evacuation of the jammers outside the forecourt of the Stade de France”she added.
Security guards and gendarmes give chase to bring them out immediately. “It is very badly organised”said a guard anonymously.
This cat-and-mouse game continued even after the match had started. And shortly before 10 p.m., the police had to launch the attack, causing a crowd to move.
Enough to infuriate Liverpool supporters, who stayed outside, albeit with tickets.
It took several minutes before the final whistle to understand the reasons for this chaos, via a UEFA press release.
“As kick-off approached, the turnstiles (to enter the Stade de France) on the side of the stands reserved for Liverpool were blocked by thousands of spectators buying fake tickets that didn’t work”explained the European body.
“This created a backlog of spectators trying to get into the stadium and as a result kick-off had to be delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many spectators as possible with valid tickets to enter the stadium.”continues the press release.
“As the number of people outside the stadium continued to increase after kick-off, the police had to use tear gas to disperse them”explained UEFA, who indicated it would go ahead “urgently” to an audit of what happened to the police and the French authorities, as well as to the French Football Federation (FFF).
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But what do the police do?
As a precaution, the Prefecture of Police had deployed 6,800 police officers, gendarmes and firefighters.
The final was scheduled for Saint Petersburg, which will eventually be ruled out, and was repatriated to Paris, which had to manage the influx of notably 60,000 Liverpool supporters, while a contingent of 20,000 tickets was allocated to supporters of the “Reds”, like that of Echt.
A police source told AFP that French authorities had warned from the outset about the difficulty of managing several thousand supporters without tickets.
“There was jostling, crowd movement, we responded in terms of security (…) We strengthened security in the stadium”underlines this source.
Another police source found it “a bit easy” to criticize the police, while the latter pointed out from the outset the difficulty of channeling so many supporters without a ticket.
The Paris police station confirmed in a press release that before the match, “many supporters without tickets to the match or holders of counterfeit tickets disrupted access to the Stade de France, near the external security perimeter”.
(Re)read: Champions League: Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0
Darmanin’s accusatory tweet
Immediately after the game, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin pointed the finger at the attitude of . on Saturday evening “thousands + UK supporters without tickets or with fake tickets forced entry” of the Stade de France.
In a tweet, accompanied by a photo of him and the Minister of Sport, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, at the security headquarters of Stade de France, the Minister of the Interior stated that “thousands of Britons + supporters +, without tickets or with false tickets, forced entry and, at times, attacked the stewards”.
“Thanks to the very many police forces mobilized tonight in this difficult context”, added Mr. Darmanin when controversy started over the circumstances in which France managed to lead this final, won by Real Madrid, two years before the hosting of the Paris Olympics.
Of @AOC1978, at the security headquarters of Stade de France. Thousands of British “supporters”, without tickets or with fake tickets, broke in and sometimes attacked the stewards. Thanks to the many police forces mobilized tonight in this difficult context. pic.twitter.com/gEXCqPhWmZ
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) May 28, 2022
Liverpool demands an investigation
By making them take responsibility for the clashes, Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin has sparked the ire of supporters and the English authorities.
“We are extremely disappointed with the access problems and breaches of the security perimeter that Liverpool supporters have faced.”explains the English club in a press release.
“This is the biggest game in European football and fans should not experience the kind of scene we saw tonight (Saturday). We have officially requested an investigation to determine the causes of these unacceptable problems.”he regretted.
Between the pre- and post-match police charges and these unfounded allegations, Liverpool supporters, who have not been seen as problematic for thirty years, have been sworn by the Paris reception.
“Exemplary” English supporters
The British Merseyside-Liverpool Police present at the stadium spoke on Twitter of: “shocking circumstances” and defended the behavior “to copy” Reds supporters during the match, “the worst” which she says she has never had to deal with in terms of organization.
Around the Stade de France, or in the fan zone in eastern Paris, where tens of thousands watched the broadcast, British fans posed no security problem, AFP journalists noted.
And in this high-risk area, power management took place without incident, while the atmosphere throughout remained festive and good-natured. After the defeat and despite 12 hours of cheering, sometimes very alcoholic, the tide of supporters in red left the scene, certainly disappointed, but without incident.
Marked by the drama of the Heysel in Belgium – 39 dead in 1985 – Liverpool supporters no longer have a reputation for being truly problematic hooligans.
Evacuation of the ventilator zone without incident according to the prefecture
With regard to the attitude of the supporters, the Paris police station noted in a tweet on Saturday evening that the evacuation of the two separate “fan zones” – for Real Madrid supporters in Saint-Denis and for those of Liverpool in the east of Paris – had took place “without major incidents”, evoking for these gatherings a general “good physiognomy” of the evening.
The prefecture on the Cours de Vincennes had set up a secure perimeter with giant screens, drinks and entertainment to welcome the 40,000 English supporters of the “Reds” who had no ticket.
Despite the defeat, the evacuation of this high-risk perimeter went without incident, an AFP journalist noted. The aftermath of this final will be sad like no other in Liverpool, but perhaps also tense between London and Paris.
A “Global Humiliation”
“A worldwide humiliation for France, whose image continues to tarnish!”, responded in a tweet, the acting National Rally chairman, Jordan Bardella (far right), speaking of “wild hordes that systematically rot at the slightest occurrence”.
“You have to remember the context. This final should have been played in Russia” and France organized it “in just three months”pleaded on RMC the deputy LAREM-Renaissance, Aurore Bergé.
But “there were no problems in the fan zones”she assured, calling out: “cold look at what happened”so as not to draw erroneous conclusions about the possible organizational weaknesses of the French authorities ahead of the major sporting events to come.