France has ‘learned lessons’ from Champions League final – Sports Minister

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

Ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in France on Friday, the country’s Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has insisted that lessons have been learnt following the scenes at the 2022 UEFA Champions League final at the Stade de France in Paris.

Last year’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool was marred by chaotic scenes ahead of kick-off, 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 turnstiles.

Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s general secretary, later issued an apology to Liverpool supporters after an independent review found that the governing body was primarily responsible for the failures which “almost led to disaster”. UEFA later announced that it would be implementing a special refund scheme for fans affected by the events.

The independent 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 fans posed “significant threat to public order”. Other bodies such as the French police and the French Football Federation (FFF) were adjudged to have contributed to the chaos.

On Friday, the Stade de France will host the opening match of the Rugby World Cup between France and New Zealand. The stadium will also host other matches during the tournament, including the semi-finals and final.

Ahead of the tournament, 7,000 extra security personnel have been deployed by the French government to ensure it goes ahead without the risk of similar scenes to those that occurred at the Champions League final.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to learn the lessons from what happened at the Stade de France,” Oudéa-Castéra said, according to BBC Sport.

She added: “We have revised our security policy, working on crime prevention. We have recruited 600 agents in airports to make it easier to go through customs and also reinforced the staff in the train stations.

“It will be an outstanding moment of sport. This Rugby World Cup is set to be exceptional as France organises it alone for the first time.”

Paris will also stage the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024, with the Stade de France to serve as one of the host venues.