PARIS (AP) – French authorities on Monday defended police for indiscriminately firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool fans during the Champions League final, while accusing industry levels of fraud that have saw 30,000 to 40,000 people attempt to enter the Stade de France with fake tickets or not at all.
UEFA commissioned an independent report which it said would “examine the decision-making, accountability and behaviors of all entities involved in the final” and would be made public.
After a chaotic meeting on Saturday, France’s sports and interior ministers passed responsibility to Liverpool supporters without providing details of how they were sure so many counterfeit tickets were in circulation. People with legitimate tickets purchased through Liverpool and UEFA said they had trouble accessing the stadium.
“There was massive fraud at an industrial level and an organization of counterfeit tickets because of the pre-screening by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation, 70% of the tickets were counterfeit tickets entering the Stade de France” , said the Minister of the Interior. says Gerald Darmanin. “Fifteen percent of the counterfeit tickets were also counterfeited after the first screening…more than 2,600 tickets were confirmed by UEFA as non-validated tickets even though they had passed the first screening.
The French sports ministry has provided no evidence for its claims and did not respond to a follow-up email after holding a combative press conference.
“A massive presence of these counterfeit notes was of course the reason why there were delays,” Darmanin said. “Three times the start of the match was delayed.”
The final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, started 37 minutes late.
Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said it was “completely inappropriate” for the French authorities to draw conclusions and comment on the numbers so soon.
“At this point, I think it’s just not responsible to comment until we’ve actually gathered all the information,” Hogan said. “How can (the number of fans without tickets) be quantified at this stage, before we have had an independent and transparent investigation? There have also been quotes about people with counterfeit notes. But, again, how do we know all the facts until we investigate? »
Hogan said Liverpool were “looking into legal avenues” on behalf of the supporters.
“The Champions League final should be one of the greatest spectacles in football and it resulted in one of the worst experiences in the lives of many fans. So I would say that all politicians and agencies involved in this event should wait for a full and independent investigation to be completed before attempting to assign blame.
Tear gas and pepper spray were targeted at Liverpool fans, affecting children – a tactic championed by Darmanin to avoid fatalities.
“I would like to thank the police, also those who worked in the stadium because they were very calm and they knew how to avoid drama and therefore thank you for having organized the pre-screening but for lifting it when there was any. too much pressure to avoid a tragedy, “said Darmanin. “It was a decision taken by the prefecture to avoid any type of death or serious injury.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oueda-Castera blamed fans who arrived late at the stadium for crowd control issues, but did not say when they should have arrived at the stadium on the outskirts of Paris.
“As we have seen, certain aspects of flow management must be improved in high-risk matches, first filtering, second filtering, and we must take care to look closely at electronic ticketing to avoid fraud as much as possible. is concerned,” Ouéda-Castéra said. “It’s something that is absolutely essential.”
Ouéda-Castéra said fans who couldn’t enter the stadium should be compensated, but ignored questions as she left the press conference where Ouéda-Castéra.
“We are extremely sorry for all the people whose experience was ruined this whole evening,” Ouéda-Castéra said. “For people who had purchased tickets and were unable to attend the match. That’s why we asked UEFA to really work on a compensation system for these people – 2,700, including Britons – so that they are compensated.”
UEFA did not raise the issue of fan compensation in its statement on its own investigation.
“Evidence will be collected from all parties involved and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed,” UEFA said, without giving a timeline.
French authorities will set up a task force to prevent violence in stadiums and target troublemakers after seeing a series of incidents this season at domestic matches.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report
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