Last night Liverpool chairman Tom Werner sent a letter to French sports minister Amélie Oudea-Castera asking her to apologize for her comments about the alleged causes of a 37-minute delay to the start of the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday evening.
Earlier on Monday, Oudéa-Castera and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin held a press conference where they blamed ‘British fans’ for arriving late at the Stade de France, despite the overwhelming photographic and video evidence on the contrary. The pair also blamed “counterfeit notes”, saying there were up to 40,000 circulating in the northern outskirts of Paris, near where the pitch is located.
Here, Athleticism examines each of these claims, which do not match the conclusions of Matthieu Valet, spokesperson for the Independent Syndicate of Police Commissioners of France, who believes that local youths are responsible for the disturbances…
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin: “At 9:00 p.m. (Paris time, 8:00 p.m. UK), when the game was due to start, 97% of the Spanish fans were present, only 50% of the British fans had entered their section, which shows the difficulties that came only from the entry relating to Liverpool supporters and not from the other entries.
Does it stack?
Although the figures may tell the truth, the respective access points allocated to the two clubs have made it easier for Real Madrid fans to access the stadium. This, however, ignores the reality that Madrid supporters have encountered their own security problems, with fans telling Spanish media of their anger at dismal police, stolen tickets and violent attacks on the way to the game, as well as on their way out. after this.
Before kick-off, as Madrid supporters came from the north, from their fan park at Parc de la Légion d’Honneur just 1.5 km away, and passed through a ticket checkpoint where there were many space and enough stewards and police to deal with Whatever the approach, the geography at the other end of the pitch, where Liverpool supporters were supposed to be located at kick-off time, invited d huge challenges.
There were far more than the 20,000 fans in the Liverpool section of the stadium traveling from central Paris, as several thousand fans with tickets in the neutral parts of the ground, as well as some Real fans who did not attend to their fan zone, and the journalists, used the same RER line and the same metro station. From this station there was only one journey to the “Stadium”, which was supposed to take 17 minutes but for many took up to three hours.
From the underground, Liverpool fans, Real Madrid fans and ‘neutrals’ were directed to a narrow passage at the side of a dual carriageway where police vans cluttered up a lot of space.
Three hours before kick-off, the build-up had already reached an uncomfortable level. Athleticism writers James Pearce and Oliver Kay traveled to the game separately but had the exact same experiences. Worried about the pressure of the crowd, both manage to cross a barrier before approaching the Stade de France.
After walking around the stadium to reach the Accreditation Centre, it became clear that Madrid fans did not face the same geographical issues. Athleticism‘s Caoimhe O’Neill, who approached the stadium from Madrid because her ticket was in the neutral zone, suffered two ticket checks, one by the police and the other by the stewards.
Ultimately, the French authorities do not seem to have recognized that there were very different arrangements at the two ends of the stadium.
They might have thought they had reason to make different arrangements for the respective fanbases. But if so, it should be clarified.
Darmanin: “There was massive fraud at an industry level and organization of counterfeit tickets as pre-screening by Stade de France and the French Football Federation saw that 70% of the tickets were counterfeit.”
Does it stack?
By simple math, this is impossible, as it would mean that over 40,000 counterfeit notes were in circulation. For authorities to know that, over a three-hour period, even the low end of that estimate would require 167 people trying to enter illegally per minute. That’s about three per second.
There is no doubt that there were counterfeit notes in circulation, but the figures the French government is talking about do not seem at all credible.
Dan Nicolson, who has organized major events for Liverpool fans, says the claim is nonsense: “Moving tens of thousands of units of anything in just three weeks is exceptional business. If you’re doing this offline with no outlets, you’d need a network of at least 500 willing people making an average of 80 tickets each.
If a counterfeit operation were to be launched online instead, Nicolson believes scammers would need an enforcement service to rival some of Europe’s biggest e-commerce operations, while avoiding scrutiny authorities over a period of three weeks. “That’s not happening,” he said.
Darmanin: “Once past the pre-screening stage, 15% of the tickets were fake, more than 2,600 were non-validated tickets even though they had gone through the first screening.”
Does it stack?
The French interior minister would have this information if the security operation had not collapsed two hours before kick-off when stewards in many regions gave up on checking tickets.
At the first ticket checkpoint at the Liverpool end, thousands of people were let through without ticket checks an hour and 20 minutes before kick-off as authorities lost control of their own operation – apparently in order to relieve the pressure due to the huge queues that had developed over the previous three hours.
I was there when this happened and my ticket was not validated until I reached the first gate. I’ve since been told by other fans that the scanning devices used to validate cellphone tickets at the failing checkpoint had stopped working, meaning authorities were unable to effectively regulate who entered. , which added to subsequent delays at the gates.
The figures here suggest that a large number of people were turned down at the pre-screening stage.
Our Oliver Kay had been waiting at a checkpoint for almost an hour when the tickets were being inspected and he saw no one being turned away. A friend says he was held there for two hours and saw only about ten people turned away with counterfeit notes.
His colleague James Pearce, meanwhile, has friends who were in possession of genuine banknotes only to be told they were fake. They weren’t scanning after three or four attempts.
Darmanin: “The massive presence of these counterfeit tickets was the problem, which meant there were delays. There were 29 arrests that took place inside the Stade de France and more than half of those arrests were British supporters because they had entered the Stade de France.
Does it stack?
Various figures have emerged since Saturday evening. French media then reported that there had been 105 arrests. Now they suggest there were 29 at the stadium and that “more than half” of those arrested were British.
So far, he has not explained why these people were arrested.
The background to the non-British arrests has also not been revealed. It is clear from video footage, widely shared on social media, that there were locals who entered the stadium without tickets. There have also been numerous accounts of supporters of both clubs being attacked by gangs who are said to have originated from the Stade de France area.
Two flare-ups Oliver Kay witnessed off the pitch involved locals rather than fans of either club.
Valet, spokesman for the Independent Union of Police Commissioners of France, spoke of “professional thugs, mostly minors” who “wanted to break into the stadium and give the police a hard time”. The fans who were at the turnstiles said the same thing. But the French government hid this.
Amélie Oudéa-Castera, French sports minister: “The major focal point is to really understand precisely what happened during this massive fraud in regards to ticketing. counterfeit notes The counterfeit notes looked incredibly similar to normal notes, which means some checks didn’t notice.
Does it stack?
Of course, it is important to understand what happened. And this applies not only to the “massive fraud” claimed by Oudea-Castera, but also to the inadequate security arrangements which were undoubtedly a very important factor in the chaos.
Late on Monday evening, UEFA announced that an “independent report” would be carried out by Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a Portuguese MP. A statement from UEFA suggested that evidence “will be collected from all parties involved”.
For this to be done comprehensively, it will surely have to involve consulting with the thousands and thousands of fans and media who were held back at the first “pre-screening” point where many of the problems began.
(Additional contributors: James Pearce, Oliver Kay, Caoimhe O’Neill)
(Top photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)