The UK has called on European football’s governing body to launch a formal investigation following the Champions League final, after reports emerged of violent clashes and the use of tear gas by the French police against British fans in Paris.
Saturday’s game between Liverpool and Real Madrid, held at the Stade de France, was delayed by 35 minutes as French authorities struggled to manage the crowd outside the stadium.
Eyewitnesses described long queues of people waiting to get into the stadium and the use of tear gas and pepper spray by police. The French government and Uefa, European football’s governing body, accused Liverpool supporters of misbehaving.
Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, described the “footage and accounts from Liverpool fans” as “disturbing”, adding that it was in the “interests of everyone involved to understand what happened and to learn lessons” from Saturday’s events.
“I urge Uefa to launch a formal investigation into what went wrong and why, in co-ordination with stadium staff, the French Police, Federation Francaise de Football, Merseyside Police and Liverpool Football Club,” she said. Real Madrid won the game 1-0.
Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland secretary questioned the behaviour of the French authorities. “It is concerning to see that people either didn’t get into the stadium or were treated in the way that some of them seem to have been treated, with a very aggressive approach,” he told Sky News.
Uefa has said that it will “review” the situation “urgently” with the French authorities. “In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets, which did not work in the turnstiles,” it said in a statement.
“This created a build-up of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kick-off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access. As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kick-off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.”
Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, blamed “thousands” of British fans who allegedly attempted to break into the stadium without tickets or with falsified tickets. He thanked French police for their work; the interior ministry said 105 people were arrested on the night.
However, Chris Green, the assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police — whose force was deployed in Paris in an “observatory and advisory capacity” — said on Twitter that the “vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner” and people had witnessed “distressing scenes”.
In a statement issued on Saturday evening, Liverpool said it was “hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced . . . supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight”. The club called for an official investigation.
Joanne Anderson, Liverpool’s mayor, said that she would write to foreign secretary Liz Truss to “request answers” from Uefa and an investigation by French president Emmanuel Macron.
Her call was echoed by Ian Byrne, a Liverpool MP who attended the match and said that where he entered only two of the 13 turnstiles were open. “I’ve never ever seen a more hostile environment,” he said. “From the outset the police, the security, everything about it was absolutely awful.”
The French government and police also faced criticism from both ends of the domestic political spectrum.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called it a “humiliation” for France as the country prepares to host the 2024 summer Olympics. She accused the interior ministry of lying about who was responsible for the trouble, and blamed “traditional thugs from the suburbs” rather than British fans.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of a leftwing alliance in France’s upcoming parliamentary elections, said the events showed a “total failure” by the French police, whom he blamed for having aggravated the situation.
Source: Financial Times