UEFA bears ‘primary responsibility’ for chaos at Champions League final in Paris

Featured image credit: Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Guilhem Vellut/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size

Theodore Theodoridis, general secretary at UEFA, has issued an apology to Liverpool supporters after an independent review into the events at last year’s Champions League final at the Stade de France found that the governing body bears primary responsibility for failures which “almost led to disaster”.

The report, which has been produced by an independent review panel led by Dr. Brandão Rodrigues, was published by UEFA yesterday (Monday). The review was commissioned by UEFA in the days following the match on May 28 last year.

Kick-off for the final, which Real Madrid won 1-0, was delayed by more than half an hour as thousands of fans remained outside of the stadium. 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 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”.

The report has been compiled based on interviews and testimonies of numerous witnesses and stakeholders, including Liverpool and Real Madrid fans. The report concluded that it was “remarkable that no one lost their life” at the match, with UEFA stating that the report highlighted a “number of important lessons” about how the organisation of the final could have been improved.

The panel concluded that there were two “overarching organisational failures” that lie at the root of what went “so disastrously wrong”. Firstly, the UEFA ‘model’ for organising the final was deemed to be defective in that there was an absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security.

The report also found that the safety, security and service model laid out in the Saint-Denis Convention was ignored in favour of a “securitised” approach which was inappropriately based on “incorrect assumptions that Liverpool FC supporters posed significant threat to public order”.

The report continued: “That inexplicable misconception resulted in a policing approach that lacked capacity for engagement, and which actively failed to integrate into a coherent multi-agency framework.”

The panel ultimately concluded that UEFA, as the event owner, bears “primary responsibility” for failures. The report stated that UEFA was central to the organisation of the final and should have monitored, supervised and assisted with security and safety measures to ensure they were fit for purpose, and to identify and remedy problems before they arose in real time.

The report said there was “contributory fault” from other bodies such as the French police and the French Football Federation (FFF), but that UEFA was primarily responsible.

UEFA, which said it is currently analysing the findings of the review and assessing them against its own analysis of the organisation of the event, will be announcing a special refund scheme for fans.

Theodoridis said yesterday: “On behalf of UEFA, I would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded on what should have been a celebration at the pinnacle of the club season.”

A French Senate enquiry released in July concluded that “major organisational flaws” were to blame for the chaotic scenes that marred the final. 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”. Following the publication of the independent review, Theodoridis apologised for the comments directed towards Liverpool fans.

Theodoridis added: “In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool FC for the experiences many of them had when attending the game and for the messages released prior to and during the game which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.

“UEFA is committed to learning from the events of 28 May, and will cooperate closely with supporters’ groups, the finalist clubs, the host associations and local authorities in order to deliver outstanding finals where everyone can enjoy the game in a safe, secure and welcoming environment.”

Liverpool’s response

In a statement released this morning, Liverpool said it welcomed the report, which “fully vindicates” its fans while finding UEFA primarily responsible for organisational failings.

The report also found that there was a “clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush” and that the action of Liverpool fans saved lives. Liverpool thanked the panel of experts for their work on compiling the report, and the club has implored UEFA to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the panel.

Liverpool also condemned “shocking false narratives” that emerged in the immediate aftermath of the match, which have since been “totally disproven”.

Liverpool’s statement added: “It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many.

“But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering. Our thoughts go out to all our fans who have suffered as a result of Paris and we would remind them of the mental health support we put in place in the days following the disaster that was the UEFA Champions League final in Paris.”