France’s blame game after Champions League final ‘chaos’

PARIS (Reuters) – Chaotic scenes in France’s Stade Nationale before and during the Champions League final on Saturday night were described as a national embarrassment, while French ministers blamed Liverpool fans for the problem.

The final between Liverpool and Real Madrid began with a 35-minute delay after police tried to stop people trying to make their way to the Stade de France without tickets, while some ticket holders complained that they were not allowed in. Read more

Television images showed pictures of young men who did not appear to be wearing Liverpool’s red shirts jumping at the stadium gates and running away. A Reuters witness said riot police injured other people outside, including children, with tear gas.

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Some riot police officers stormed the stadium while others accused the people who tried to demolish the stadium gates.

UEFA blamed the fake tickets for causing the problem and said it would review the events with the French authorities and the French Football Federation, in a statement welcomed by the British ambassador to Paris, Menna Rawlings.

“We need to establish the facts,” Rawlings wrote on Twitter, adding her “condolences” to Liverpool after their “courageous display” in their 1-0 defeat to Real.

The French interior and sports ministers blamed the “British” supporters.

“Thousands of British supporters, without any ticket or forged one, made their way and, at times, again used violence against the stadium staff,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet thanking the French police.

“Attempts of break-ins and fraud by thousands of English fans have complicated the work of the stadium staff and police but will not taint this victory,” Sports Minister Amelie Odea Castera wrote on Twitter.

UEFA urged to investigate

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said the treatment of their fans was “unacceptable” and that the club wanted a “transparent investigation” by UEFA.

“We are intent on ensuring that there is an independent investigation and we, as the club, will be fully part of it and will be cooperative,” Hogan said in a video message on Sunday.

“We understand that there were a lot of different experiences that happened during the evening and it is essential to hear from the fans.

“We want to make sure we get the facts and present those facts to the relevant authorities… Over the coming days, we will put in place a mechanism for supporters to contact us directly.”

Britain’s sports minister, Nadine Doris, also urged UEFA to open an investigation.

“The footage and accounts from Liverpool fans and the media as they entered the Stade de France last night is deeply disturbing,” Doris said in a statement issued by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Sunday.

I urge UEFA to open a formal investigation into what went wrong and why, in coordination with the stadium staff, French police, the French Football Federation, Merseyside Police and Liverpool FC.

“It is in the best interest of all involved to understand what happened and learn lessons from these events.”

Paris police said in a statement that about 68 people had been arrested by 1.20 pm local time on Sunday, while there were 238 interventions by doctors for people with minor injuries.

And UEFA issued a statement late on Saturday evening saying: “In the lead-up to the match, the turnstiles at the end of Liverpool were blocked by thousands of fans who bought fake tickets that did not operate at the gates.”

The stadium scenes sparked outrage in France, with politicians on all sides calling it a national disgrace.

“This is a disgrace to France!” Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a former hard-right presidential candidate, said on Twitter.

Even some in French President Emmanuel Macron’s camp lamented the events that took place two years before Paris hosts the Olympic Games.

“Stade de France brawl, brawl in bars, green spaces turned to rubbish…one note: we are not ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,” Nathalie Loiseau, Macron’s party European legislator, said on Twitter.

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(Reporting by Michelle Rose, Julian Britott and Fernando Callas) Editing by Claire Fallon

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