Liverpool demand UEFA implement Champions League final recommendations ‘no matter how difficult’ after damning report | Football News
Liverpool have demanded UEFA address “shocking” failures around last year’s Champions League final, after it was found treatment of their fans “almost led to disaster”.
The club responded to UEFA’s publication of a report into the failings in Paris last May by labelling the organisational failures around the final as “shocking” and calling on the governing body to implement all 21 recommendations laid out by an independent panel.
In a statement, they wrote: “We call on UEFA and others at the top of the football regulation pyramid to come together and take positive and transparent action to ensure there are no more ‘near misses’.
“We implore UEFA to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the panel – no matter how difficult – to ensure supporter safety is the number one priority at the heart of every UEFA football fixture.
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“Shocking false narratives were peddled in the immediate aftermath of that night in Paris; narratives that have since been totally disproven. The independent French Senate report published in July 2022 found Liverpool supporters were unfairly and wrongly blamed for the chaotic scenes to divert attention from the real organisational failures.
“The Independent Senate report also published 15 recommendations for improvements. No action has been taken on these recommendations to date.
“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.”
French police face criticism in the independent report for firing tear gas and pepper spray indiscriminately on concourses near turnstiles being used by Liverpool fans, leading to crushing around security barriers at the Stade de France before the game against Real Madrid.
UEFA have again apologised to Liverpool and said that “a special refund scheme for fans” will be announced separately.
There were significant issues accessing the venue and French authorities have been criticised for deflecting responsibility, particularly after false claims about a mass of fans without tickets or fake ones.
Police have been blamed for not being proactive enough in intervening when locals – who tried to climb fences and jump turnstiles – attacked fans and for being over-reliant on the use of tear gas and pepper spray on blameless fans.
UEFA as event owner has been assigned “primary responsibility” but it’s understood some commission members disagreed with the conclusion. And the report says the police and FFF “bear responsibility” because of their roles ensuring public safety.
The lack of a Plan B has been uncovered – contingencies that could have seen stewards and police redeployed to deal with crowd management challenges.
The match was delayed for 37 minutes as a combination of operational problems outside the venue created access issues for distressed fans – particularly those who are disabled and asthmatics who had to contend with the tear gas and pepper spray.
There was a “massive” bottleneck when Liverpool supporters were funnelled through a narrow gap and tear gas was fired into an area containing thousands of Liverpool fans.
The commission rejected attempts to blame ticketless fans by French authorities on the night of May 28 and said late arriving supporters were not a cause as problems were apparent about three hours before kick-off.
The report claims the senior management of UEFA Events SA – the UEFA division running tournaments and showpiece matches – marginalised the safety and security unit with the use of subcontracted stewards and then tried to avoid accountability.
Allegedly flawed accounts by UEFA Events SA CEO Martin Kallen have also been criticised by the panel.
Although no serious injuries were reported, the event was seen as a near-miss which led to UEFA apologising to Liverpool fans and ordering an investigation into itself to learn from mistakes.
There was truncated planning for the final after UEFA was forced to find a new venue due to Russia launching its invasion of Ukraine.
Saint Petersburg was stripped of the hosting only three months before the final.
Typically, venues are chosen multiple years in advance, although the location of the previous two finals was switched even closer to the game due to coronavirus pandemic travel issues.
The review team found organisers were too reliant on operational plans used for the French Cup final – a fixture involving domestic teams rather than thousands flying in from abroad.
It is understood the French Football Federation is alleged to have produced no venue risk assessment or “proper” event risk assessment. The FFF didn’t respond to messages for comment through email and its media website on Monday.
UEFA has been told it should have done more to challenge the failure of joined-up working and find solutions on the night.
Disputing statements on the night by UEFA and the French government, no evidence of mass ticketless supporters has been uncovered.
In fact, more than 2,500 Liverpool fans were found to be unable to register legitimate tickets at turnstiles.
There is the potential that access points at the turnstiles wrongly deemed these to be fake – leading to the rushed conclusions – and pointing to issues with the infrastructure at the Stade de France.
Access issues to the stadium on the outskirts of Paris – following defective route planning from a train station – contributed to congestion and dangerous scenes on May 28.
The side-lined UEFA security and safety unit should have been used to work with local authorities to check the route to the stadium and ensure turnstiles were working, the panel is believed to have found.
The French sports ministry did not reply to a request for comment. UEFA didn’t provide a comment ahead of receiving the report.
The independent review was led by former Portuguese minister Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues and sports safety experts and English fan representatives were also consulted.
Dr Rodrigues said last year in a UEFA statement: “The events of 28 May were distressing for everyone involved. This review aims to look at the evidence dispassionately and to identify responsibilities and ways forward.”
Analysis: Now we know what we always knew
Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Now we know what we always knew.
“Liverpool fans didn’t arrive late and Liverpool fans didn’t try to bunk in en masse without tickets.
“Now we know what we always knew.
“What happened on 28 May 2022 was the fault of UEFA, the French authorities and the French police.
“A Champions League final should be a celebration of football but in Paris it turned into a nightmare for tens of thousands of supporters because of failures on the part of the people who were supposed to be looking after them.
“To make matters worse, Liverpool fans were then blamed for the failures when they had done absolutely nothing wrong.
“Thousands of fans were indiscriminately pepper sprayed and tear-gassed as the French police lost control.
“Inside the ground, thanks to social media, people already knew something was seriously wrong and they did not believe UEFA’s now notorious message on the big screens which blamed fans for the kick-off being delayed: ‘Due to the late arrival of fans at the stadium, the match has been delayed. Further information will in 15 minutes maximum’.
“This message was seen by hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the world and gave the wholly incorrect impression that fans were causing the problems.
“Hundreds of fans were attacked and mugged by local gangs of youths after the game when most of the police presence had disappeared.
“Some 115 fans were injured and up to 3,000 Liverpool fans with tickets left without getting into the stadium.
“The truth is that the real blame lies with UEFA, the French authorities and the French police. Their incompetence and negligence could have led to a far more serious situation had it not been for the restraint of the Liverpool supporters who know all about the history of what happened at Hillsborough in 1989.
“Although the French police were out in force before the game, they were nowhere to be seen when supporters were being mugged and attacked as they were leaving the game.
“After the game, the French interior minister Gerald Darmanin made the ludicrous claim that up to 40,000 Liverpool fans had turned up at the stadium without tickets or with fake tickets. The real number of counterfeit Liverpool tickets turned out to be 1,600 – which is no more than usually expected for a game of that size.
“It is now obvious that three months was not enough time to organise a Champions League final. The Stade de France should not be used for another final for a long time and UEFA should ensure that all fans who suffered on that night receive full refunds for their tickets.
“And they should apologise and thank Liverpool supporters for the way they behaved.”
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