France blames Liverpool fans, ticket fraud for Champions League chaos
Paris, May 30 (EFE).- French authorities on Monday laid the blame for the chaos that erupted outside the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League final at the weekend with the tens of thousands of Liverpool fans who traveled to Paris without tickets or with fake tickets and on “industrial level” ticket fraud.
France’s interior minister Gerard Darmanin and sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera gave a press conference two days after the match, which had to be delayed due to ugly scenes that unfolded as fans made their way to the stadium.
Darmanin, citing Uefa figures following a two-hour meeting, said between 30,000 to 40,000 fans made their way to the stadium in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis without tickets or in possession of counterfeits.
“There was massive fraud at an industrial level and organization of fake tickets because the pre-filtering of the Stade de France and the French Football Federation saw that 70% of tickets were fake tickets coming into the Stade de France,” he said.
The disruptions outside the stadium, which saw French police deploy tear gas and pepper spray as fans packed tightly to get into the match, were restricted to the entrances allocated to Liverpool supporters, he added.
Darmanin said more than half of the 29 people arrested inside the stadium were “British supporters.”
When the original kick-off time arrived at 9pm, 97% of the stands earmarked for Real Madrid supporters were full while just 50% of the Liverpool end were occupied, he added.
The interior minister thanked the police for their actions to “avoid drama” and ensure that no-one was killed or severely injured.
Oudea-Castera said she regretted that some families, including children, had been affected by the police’s use of pepper spray and tear gas, and acknowledged that she had seen videos depicting “disproportionate” police actions.
She added that 2,700 people were prevented from entering the stadium due to counterfeit tickets.
Liverpool fans also reported being mugged by local gangs after the game. The French sports minister said 77 people were arrested in connection with those robberies.
A French police officer told France’s BFMTV earlier Monday that groups of 20-30 masked men were roving the vicinity of the stadium in Saint-Denis, an area with a reputation for a high crime rate, in a bid to target departing fans.
The British government has called for a probe into the treatment of Liverpool fans by French police, which has come under heavy criticism from supporters attending the game as well by politicians.
Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson, who was in Paris for the game, said in a BBC interview on Monday that the police had displayed “disgusting behavior.”
Video footage on the lead-up to the match showed crowds of Liverpool fans bottlenecked on their way to the stadium as well as police using pepper spray on supporters trying to access the gates.
Some supporters told the media that groups of locals were causing disruption by trying to gain access to the grounds without tickets.
For Liverpool, such scenes conjure painful memories of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 fans died in a stadium crush that resulted from police negligence and stadium design faults, and the police blamed on fans. EFE