The French interior minister has been mocked for blaming “ticketless British supporters” for chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France as Paris hosted the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Liverpool fans endured long waits, crushes, tear gas, as well as reports of some physical attacks by locals before and after the game.
Uefa initially delayed the 8pm GMT kick-off, blaming “the late arrival of fans”. The governing body then issued a statement: “In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles.”
Afterwards, perhaps keen to protect reputations as the French capital played host to the biggest club game in the world, French minister Gerald Darmanin was quick to attribute blame. From his position inside the stadium, Darmanin tweeted: “Thousands of British ‘supporters’, without tickets or with counterfeit tickets, forced entry and assaulted stewards. Thank you to the many police forces mobilised this evening in this difficult situation.”
However, The Independent’s reporter on the ground discovered a different picture, with frustrated fans carrying legitimate tickets made to wait for several hours outside and funnelled into dangerously tight spaces, before being hit with tear gas.
The Mail on Sunday’s chief football writer, Rob Draper, was caught in mayhem and tweeted his experience in detail, sensing danger in the police’s operational strategy to use riot vans as blockers to funnel fans into a narrow space outside the ground, long before the situation escalated.
One Liverpool fan tweeted pictures of a boy’s badly cut face, writing: “2 hours queuing. Only got in for half time. tear gassed 4 times despite the fact we were nothing but peaceful. 14 year year old cousin beat up by people trying to steal his ticket. don’t let them blame us!!!!!”
The replies to Darmanin were mocking. “Once again you are lying,” one wrote in French. “The culprits are no more British than you!”
Another replied: “Buy yourself glasses! You are ridiculous, all the pictures show that they are not English.”
I came across this issue repeatedly as I tried to access the stadium last night. Locals trying to force their way in leading to security closing the gates and keeping out legitimate fans with tickets. Police either didn't know how to deal with it or didn't want to #LFC #UCLfinal pic.twitter.com/JZyexADoMa
— Nick Parrott (@NickParrottTV) May 29, 2022
— Jam Williams-Thomas (@JamAntonioTV) May 28, 2022
Television footage showed images of young men, who did not appear to be wearing the red Liverpool jerseys, jumping the gates of the stadium and running away. Other people outside, including children, were tear-gassed by riot police, a Reuters witness said.
Some riot police officers stormed into the stadium while others charged at people trying to knock down stadium gates.
Uefa said it would review the events together with the French authorities and the French Football Federation, in a statement welcomed by the British ambassador in Paris, Menna Rawlings.
“We need to establish the facts,” Rawlings tweeted, adding her “commiserations” to Liverpool after a “valiant performance” in their 1-0 defeat by Real.
Additional reporting by Reuters