French enquiry blames organisers for Champions League final ‘fiasco’

A French Senate enquiry has today (Wednesday) concluded that “major organisational flaws” were to blame for the chaotic scenes that marred May’s UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris.

Laurent Lafon, Chairman of the Culture, Education and Communication Committee, and François-Noël Buffet, Chairman of the Law Committee, today presented the conclusions of inquiries carried out on the incidents that occurred at the Stade de France on May 28.

From June 1, the Law and Culture Committees held public hearings and went on site to learn more about what caused the incidents. The enquiry today detailed that “major organisational flaws” and a “multiplicity of factors poorly taken into consideration” by the stakeholders led to a “fiasco” from which “all lessons must be learned” for the organisation of future international sporting events.

The two commissions will propose in a joint information report, recommendations to this effect. The final’s kick-off 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 showing 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. Real Madrid said that several of its fans were “attacked, harassed, assaulted and robbed in violent fashion”, adding that its fans and supporters “deserve a response”.

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 scenes at the Champions League final were a source of great embarrassment to France as it gears up to host major sporting events such as the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“These dysfunctions were at every level, not only during the implementation but also during preparations in advance,” Lafon said today, according to the AFP news agency.

Regarding comments from the likes of Darmanin, who had initially stated that Liverpool fans were mostly responsible, adding that up to 40,000 of them travelled to the stadium with no tickets or fakes, the report contradicted these claims.

It read: “It is unfair to have sought to blame supporters of Liverpool for the disturbances, as the interior minister has done, to deflect attention from the state’s inability to properly manage the crowd and suppress the action of several hundred violent and organised delinquents.”

Buffet and Lafon reiterated this criticism of Darmanin, adding that it was not the enquiry’s role to call for his resignation or dismissal. “The first statements (by the minister) do not match up with reality,” said Buffet.

Lafon added: “The conclusions of the minister on the evening and the day after were not the right ones. It was a biased conclusion, imprecise.”

The final report made a series of recommendations to authorities to improve security planning for major sporting events. This included that police develop clearer guidelines for the use of tear gas and adopt other crowd-control methods such as greater use of mounted officers and water cannons.

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

European football’s governing body is conducting its own probe into the events surrounding the match and last month issued an apology to fans who witnessed “frightening and distressing events”.

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