Football: Back to a chaotic final at the Stade de France

Updated

The Champions League final was marred in Paris on Saturday night by scenes of chaos and disorganization outside the stadium.

UEFA explains that the mess was caused by a “counterfeit ticket” problem that caused bottlenecks.

AFP

Supporters gathered in front of the gates, freeloaders in rubble and brawny police interventions… Moved at short notice to Saint-Denis, the Champions League final Liverpool-Real Madrid (0-1) Saturday presented scenes of chaos, suggesting disruptions in the organization of the event.

What happened ?

Although the pre-match had gone good-naturedly, tension mounted as the game approached, initially scheduled for 9pm: huge queues formed around the Stade de France, where the filtering of supporters was done trickle down, to the point that UEFA set the kickoff 36 minutes out, an unprecedented event in the recent history of the event.

At least a thousand supporters got stuck and shouted “Open the gate” (“open the gate”). Then, attempted break-ins by people without a ticket undermined the system. Tear gas was launched to prevent several dozen individuals, some of whom did not wear the colors of either club, from climbing the barriers.

“There were jostling, crowd movement, we gave answers,” a police source explained, as 105 people were arrested. Some English fans, who came with family, complained that they had been targeted. “I’m a teacher, I’ve never been sprayed with tear gas. (…) The police pushed me against the door, there was no need. They acted like they had an army in front of them,” said Pete Blades, a 57-year-old French teacher in Liverpool, in tears.

The queues only disappeared at halftime.

Why these bottlenecks?

Nearly 7,000 police, gendarmes and firefighters were mobilized on Saturday. Two security perimeters were deployed: a pre-filter about 200 meters from the perimeter fence, then a second on the stadium forecourt, with turnstiles.

According to two representatives of supporters present at the Stade de France, a problem of crowd referral has accentuated the congestion. Preferred coming through RER D due to strikes hitting RER B, Liverpool supporters faced just 4 pre-filter entries, while there were 13 entries at the RER B exit, one of these sources reports.

“This created a phenomenon of suffocation and crushing on the part of the RER D,” she notes, lamenting the lack of stewards to direct the flows. On the part of the organizers, on the other hand, the numbers were considered sufficient. According to a source who took part in the organization, “the pre-filter gave way, (the supporters) arrived at the gates and it was all difficult to contain them”.

What impact of counterfeit banknotes?

UEFA denounced the influx of thousands of spectators with fake tickets, which blocked the turnstiles and slowed entry. A source close to the government claimed on Sunday that it was “more of a sporting problem than safety” caused by these “thousands of counterfeit tickets”.

“There were a lot of counterfeit bills,” admits a source close to the organization. There were “blockchain” tickets (note: digitally verified) but UEFA gave in to Liverpool’s request “asking for 20,000 paper tickets”, and there were “photocopies, rough imitations, others very well done”.

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson reported after the game that someone close to him, to whom he offered a real ticket, was told that his ticket was fake. “It was very badly organised,” said the Scot. Fans have also reported ticket theft.

Preparation time too short?

It usually takes more than a year to prepare for such a planetary event. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the French Football Federation (FFF) reinstated the organization initially entrusted to Saint Petersburg at the end of February.

And this shorter time may have weighed in, as UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin suggested in an interview with AFP on Friday: “I told my teams, ‘Don’t tell me you need ‘a year or two, because we only have three weeks’ It’s not easy,” he said.

A source close to the executive branch acknowledged insufficient mobility of the police, which “overreacted” to celebratory events, against a background of “inadequate preparation” and “underestimation of the number of supporters”.

“That raises the question of France’s ability to host events of this magnitude,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) network, as the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympics take place in France. will take place. “We continue to reproduce the same organizational patterns that have failed in the past.”

AFP

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