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UEFA apologises to fans over Champions League final scenes

UEFA, football’s European governing body, has issued an apology to fans who witnessed “frightening and distressing events” in the build-up to the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France on May 28.

Last week, UEFA commissioned an independent review into the events surrounding the final, which was delayed by more than half an hour as thousands of fans remained outside of the Stade de France.

Some fans queued outside for more than two hours, while videos circulated on social media showed police using pepper spray and tear gas as supporters tried to scan their tickets at the stadium turnstiles.

Liverpool immediately called for a formal investigation to be carried out over what it described as the “unacceptable” treatment of its supporters. On Friday, Real Madrid issued its own statement, which said that several fans were “attacked, harassed, assaulted and robbed in violent fashion”. Real Madrid said that its fans and supporters “deserve a response” and has called for those responsible to be held accountable.

UEFA’s review will look to establish a full picture and timeline of what occurred on the day of the match, both within the Stade de France and in the surrounding areas, with spectator flows to the stadium set to be examined.

In its apology, UEFA, which initially blamed the delays on supporters arriving late, said that “no football fan should be put in that situation and it must not happen again”. UEFA is set to provide more information on how relevant parties can submit their testimonies via a dedicated email address or an online questionnaire.

In the immediate aftermath of the match, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin claimed that thousands of British supporters “without tickets or with counterfeit tickets forced entry and sometimes assaulted stewards”. France’s Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra also claimed that there had been “no problems” at the Real Madrid end of the stadium, adding that Liverpool had let its fans “out in the wild”.

The claims were strongly disputed by Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan, who pointed out that an independent investigation has not yet been carried out to establish all the facts.

The Stade de France staged the final of the UEFA European Championship in 2016 and is due to be a host venue at next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games.

The Champions League final had initially been due to take place at Saint Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena but UEFA moved the match to the Stade de France following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Image: Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size