Calls for changes as Uefa deemed responsible for CL final chaos
Sports Desk, Feb 14 (EFE).- Liverpool FC on Tuesday called on Uefa to implement the 21 recommendations set out by an independent investigation that found the European football body bore “primary responsibility” for the nearly disastrous chaos fans experienced outside the Stade de France stadium before the Champions League final last year.
The English club said in a statement that the conclusions of the report published Monday “vindicated Liverpool fans” while finding Uefa was chiefly responsible for the “organizational failings, absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security, poor planning and lack of contingency plans.”
Ahead of the final held in Saint-Denis outside Paris on May 28, 2022, Liverpool fans were corralled through a narrow concourse on their way to the stadium which, in conjunction with delays at the ticket gates, led to congestion that posed a “clear and immediate danger” of becoming a “fatal crush,” the Independent Review Panel said.
The report also detailed how police used tear gas on “disorderly groups of locals” and pepper spray on fans who had valid tickets to the match, which was ultimately delayed due to the chaos outside the stadium.
“It is remarkable that no one lost their life,” the report stated.
It added: “All the stakeholders interviewed by the Panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe.”
The investigation also found there to be no evidence of there being an “abnormally high” number of people trying to access the stadium with counterfeit tickets, or without tickets at all, a claim that was initially asserted by Uefa, French authorities and the French Football Federation (FFF).
It acknowledged shortcomings by other entities such as the French police and the FFF, but highlighted that Uefa was “at the wheel.”
The actions of Liverpool fans on the night of the final was “probably instrumental in protecting vulnerable people and averting what might well have been more serious injuries and deaths,” the report, led by Dr. Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, added.
After the report was published, Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said he apologized “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.”
“In particular, I would like to apologize 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.”
The European football body said it was “reviewing the recommendations of the Panel in order to introduce appropriate changes and arrangements to ensure the highest level of safety for fans at future finals.”
Liverpool said in the statement Tuesday that it was “shocking” that groups of fans or clubs could experience such “fundamental safety failings” more than 30 years after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 Liverpool fans were killed by a crush caused by a bottleneck during an FA Cup match.
“But even more concerning is the realization that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering,” the club said.
Local police authorities and some newspapers initially blamed the Hillsborough disaster on the behavior of Liverpool fans. A probe nearly three decades later found the fans had been unlawfully killed as a result of gross negligence by the police and other emergency services.
The 2022 Champions League final kicked off after a delay of over 30 minutes, and went on to be won by Real Madrid. EFE