Chaos in Champions League final caused by ‘series of dysfunctions’, says French Senate

A French Senate investigation into chaotic scenes at the Champions League final in May in Paris concluded on Wednesday that the problems were caused by a “severe of malfunctions” in the organisation, rather than by Liverpool fans as alleged by the official. government.

“These dysfunctions occurred at all levels, not just during implementation (during the game) but also during advance preparations,” investigation co-chair Laurent Lafon told reporters at a news conference.

The “dysfunctions” included not predicting how fans would get to the stadium due to a transport strike, inadequate instructions and the use of police stations that caused pressure points on the way to the game.

A fact-finding mission led by two senators has heard witnesses since the Liverpool-Real Madrid game on May 28, which was marred by a delay in the start of the match, crushes, tear gas and street crime.

The inquiry did not consider the issue of fake tickets, the late arrival of fans at the stadium or the presence of thousands of fans without tickets as the main causes.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin suggested all of these as factors in explaining the fiasco, which was a national shame for France.

“It’s not the number of people around the stadium that is the cause of these dysfunctions,” added Lafon.

Many Liverpool fans struggled to travel to the stadium because of a transport strike, then found themselves in bottlenecks and crushes at the stadium’s entrance gates, where police fired tear gas to move them back.

Disabled Liverpool fans testified to the Senate committee that officials even sprayed people in wheelchairs.

After the game, fans on both sides were attacked by local gangs as they headed for local transport links, with many reporting robberies, muggings and threats as the police watched.

The televised events were a national shame and are believed to have influenced the June parliamentary elections, when President Emmanuel Macron lost a majority and the anti-immigrant Rally Nacional party made unprecedented gains.

‘Failure’

Darmanin survived a government reshuffle in May and has since been given extra responsibility as Home Secretary despite his widely contested claims, which has caused fury in Liverpool and tensions with the British government.

Officials are also under pressure to explain why the stadium’s security camera footage was not saved, removing a potentially vital source of information for investigators as they try to piece together the events.

“Should things have been better managed at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partially responsible? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio in late June in his first apology.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement is also expected to face stinging criticism after admitting at a June 9 hearing that the security operations were a “failure”.

But the renowned hard-liner defended the use of tear gas to drive fans away from the stadium, saying “there was no other way”.

France will host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024. The Senate report was supposed to make a series of recommendations to improve coordination of major sporting events between organizers, local authorities and the police.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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