HomeSportsPoor planning and mistakes, not fans, led to Champions League chaos, report...

Poor planning and mistakes, not fans, led to Champions League chaos, report says

PARIS (AP) — Faulty coordination, poor planning and multiple mistakes by French authorities were responsible for the chaos that marred this year’s Champions League soccer final outside Paris, according to a parliamentary report published Tuesday. Wednesday who criticized officials for blaming English fans instead of acknowledging his own. faults

The scenes of confusion and violence in the May 28 final between Real Madrid and Liverpool were described as a “fiasco”, and with Paris scheduled to host the Summer Olympics in two years’ time, the report urged authorities French authorities to dispel doubts about the country’s ability to host major sporting events.

The report found that authorities were unprepared for the tens of thousands of Liverpool supporters who converged on the Stade de France, and in no uncertain terms rejected the French government’s initial insistence that the dangerous crush of fans had been caused that night. by the presence of fans who had false tickets, or none at all.

“For us, it’s clear that things didn’t go wrong because Liverpool fans were accompanying their team,” Laurent Lafon, a lawmaker who chairs one of the two Senate committees that led the investigation, said at a news conference on Wednesday. .

Fans were also assaulted after the game by groups of petty criminals who took advantage of the chaos to try to enter the stadium and harass fans. Few police officers were stationed to prevent crime, because most were focused on potential acts of vandalism or terrorist threats, the report noted.

Poor planning meant serious problems were almost inevitable, according to the report. “A series of dysfunctions occurred” “at each stage,” Lafon said, because soccer officials, police and transport authorities were “in their own lane without any real coordination,” not anticipating that a large number of followers would join. come and react slowly when the crowds began to accumulate.

Chaotic scenes of fans scaling stadium fences and families being tear-gassed at the match – the biggest match in club football, watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world – severely dented France’s credibility in celebrating similar high-profile events, such as the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the Olympics.

The senators urged President Emmanuel Macron’s government to own up to mistakes, change police tactics and improve France’s strategy to secure large-scale sporting events.

“We must not allow the idea to spread that we cannot organize major sporting events,” François-Noël Buffet, another senator who led the investigation, said on Wednesday. “If the truth had been told right away, we wouldn’t be here two months later.”

Gérald Darmanin, Macron’s hard-nosed interior minister, was quick to blame the chaos on 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool supporters with false tickets or no tickets. In the end, only about 2,500 forged tickets were scanned, according to the report.

Darmanin, who belatedly apologized for organizational failings that night, said on Wednesday that the government would follow the report’s recommendations. Those ideas include improving real-time communication between authorities for large-scale events, systematically planning alternate overflow routes to avoid crowd buildup, and reducing bottlenecks by finding ways to encourage fans to arrive earlier.

“There were not only malfunctions, but also errors in preparation,” Darmanin told lawmakers on Wednesday, adding that authorities would “bear all the consequences” in preparing for future events.

The report blamed French authorities for their “outdated perception of British fans, reminiscent of 1980s hooligans”, which led them to exaggerate the threat of violent fans and underestimate the threat of petty crime.

“The political will to suggest that the presence of British fans was the sole cause of the chaotic situation at the Stade de France, perhaps to hide the poor organizational decisions that were made, is in any case unacceptable,” the French senators wrote. in a abstract of your report.

Video surveillance footage from the stadium was automatically deleted seven days after the game, per standard practice, because authorities did not request copies, a decision that showed poor judgment and prevented them from accurately determining the number of fans without tickets, the senators said. .

Spirit of Shankly, one of Liverpool’s leading supporter groups, welcomed the report, calling it a “clear message of support” to Liverpool supporters who attended the match. Many had accused French police of using aggressive tactics, including tear gas, on match night, and were outraged when French authorities blamed them.

“Spirit of Shankly would like to thank the Senate for both receiving the fans’ testimonies and for holding them harmless,” the group said in a statement. statement on Wednesday, though he added that he still expected “a full apology from the French government.”

The report, which was drafted after public hearings with government officials, local authorities and fan groups, acknowledged that several factors complicated crowd control that night, including a strike on one of the main commuter trains leading to the stadium. , and more than expected. crowds of English fans converging on the stadium.

But the senators said French authorities did not have adequate contingency plans and did not adapt when the situation began to spiral out of control.

Stadium employees were not trained enough to handle disgruntled or distraught fans, the report said, and law enforcement and transportation authorities were too slow to redirect the flow of fans and avoid bottlenecks that were created when used a pre-filtering system intended to prevent terrorist attacks. It is also used by commissaries to check tickets.

There were not enough signs or staff to guide fans, the report added, and there was no system to update fans on what was happening, including the fact that the game had been delayed, “which would have prevented stampedes. to enter.”

A government-commissioned report reached similar conclusions last month, and UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, is conducting its own review. French senators blamed UEFA for its ticketing policy, arguing in their report that it should make “unforgeable” paperless tickets compulsory for major events such as the Champions League final.

tariq panja contributed reporting from London.

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