Blame game over chaos at Champions League final

Liverpool football club called for an investigation into “unacceptable issues” at Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris, as French politicians blamed British fans for chaos at the stadium’s security perimeter.

The kick-off of Saturday’s game, which Real Madrid ultimately won, was delayed by 35 minutes, as French police used tear gas to disperse crowds at some of the Stade de France’s access points.

Organizer UEFA said thousands of fans who had bought counterfeit tickets blocked the turnstiles at the Liverpool end, creating a back-up, and the delay was meant to allow the entrance of as many fans with “genuine tickets” as possible. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd outside the stadium, it said.

Liverpool has requested a formal investigation into the causes of these “unacceptable issues,” citing huge disappointment at the “stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter,” according to a statement.

“This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight,” it said.

But in a message thanking the police, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that “thousands of British ‘fans,’ without a ticket or with fake tickets, have forced their way in and, at times, assaulted the stewards.”

French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra also laid the blame for the chaos with British fans. “The attempts of intrusion and fraud by thousands of English fans have complicated the work of the stewards and police forces, but they will not tarnish this victory,” she said in a congratulatory message to Real Madrid.

But there were also U.K. reports of peaceful queuers being targeted with tear gas. The Liverpool police said on Twitter that “the behaviour of the fans at the turnstiles was exemplary in shocking circumstances.” U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she was “very concerned for all involved.”

‘Traditional delinquency’

The management of the match and the government’s approach to it drew criticism from political opponents. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally (RN), called for a parliamentary enquiry, blaming the chaos on mismanagement and “traditional delinquency which has caused every event to turn into a riot.”

“The whole world was watching and every capital that has seen this has concluded that France is no longer able to organize major events without them getting out of hand,” Le Pen said.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the France Unbowed party, called the events “a total failure of the police strategy.”

“It’s worrying, because it’s clear that we’re not prepared for events such as the Olympics, or perhaps the World Rugby Championship,” he said.

U.K. Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News Sunday morning that he could understand Liverpool’s call for a probe. “I think we do need to ensure that they are looking into how this happened. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this overseas actually,” he said.

He called it “concerning to see that people either didn’t get into the stadium, or were treated in the way that some of them seem have been treated, with a very aggressive approach.”

UEFA said it’s “sympathetic to those affected by these events” and that it will “urgently” review the events with French police, French authorities and the French Football Federation.

The events in Paris were remindful of the scenes of mayhem at Wembley Stadium last July before the the Euro 2020 final, when fans without tickets fought with security staff and police. 

Annabelle Dickson contributed reporting.

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