Champions League final chaos after Liverpool fans tear-gassed by Paris police

·7 min read
Liverpool fans cover their faces to protect themselves from teargass and pepperspray - GETTY IMAGES
Liverpool fans cover their faces to protect themselves from teargass and pepperspray - GETTY IMAGES

Liverpool have demanded a formal investigation after fans were tear-gassed by police and the Champions League final was delayed by 37 minutes with thousands of supporters unable to enter the Stade de France.

Fans were caught in bottlenecks despite arriving at the stadium with hours to spare, with the organisation around the arena described as "shambolic" as the chaotic situation left many supporters fearing for their safety.

Pepper spray was also used on fans, with UEFA now facing serious questions over safety and policing as many children were left in tears, some after being pepper sprayed.

A Liverpool statement read: "We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced this evening at Stade de France.

"This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.

"We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues."

Merseyside Police, the force covering Liverpool, tweeted the "behaviour of the fans at the turnstiles was exemplary in shocking circumstances."

Supporter Colm Lacey said he saw "children crying, people trapped" outside the entrances.

"People started jumping the queue, then they ripped the gate open and then there was a push," Mr Lacey said.

Liverpool fans are seen queuing outside the stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League final match - GETTY IMAGES
Liverpool fans are seen queuing outside the stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League final match - GETTY IMAGES

UEFA then sparked anger by announcing the delay being due to “the late arrival of fans”, as an initial 15-minute delay was then pushed back further but also saw pop star Camila Cabello perform during an opening ceremony as desperate fans were stuck waiting. In a subsequent statement Uefa said that the delay was for “security reasons”.

UEFA later issued a statement saying there will be a review into the chaos that marred the final.

"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," the statement read. "This created a build-up of fans trying to get in.  As a result, the kick off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access.

"As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kick off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium. UEFA is sympathetic to those affected by these events and will further review these matters urgently together with the French police and authorities and with the French Football Federation."

The French Minister for the Interior later appeared to blame "British" fans, accusing some of assaulting stewards.

Tweeting a picture of himself alongside the French Sports Minister, Amelie Odea-Castera, in the control centre of the Stade de France, Gerald Darmanin said: "Thousands of British "supporters", without tickets or with counterfeit tickets, forced entry and sometimes assaulted the stewards. Thank you to the very many police forces mobilized this evening in this difficult context."

Broadcaster Kelly Cates, daughter of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, saw problems more than two hours before the scheduled kick-off and warned fans about the dangers around the Saint-Denis venue, which was chosen to host the final instead of Saint Petersburg following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Problems appeared to be building up due to painfully slow security checks causing the bottleneck, with fans trying to access the stadium from a ramp that led up to gate U on the west side of the ground.

Players’ families also witnessed the treatment of fans, with the brother of Joel Matip, Marvin, clearly laying the blame at the hands of the police. “The organisation around and in the stadium is unworthy of a CL final! Using tear gas in areas with children and uninvolved fans is dangerous!” he said.

French police tweeted “do not force entry” in English and Spanish at 8.40pm local time, but there were reports that it was locals who were trying to gain entry to the stadium without a ticket.

There was an eye-witness report by a member of Liverpool club staff who tweeted that supporters who had been locked outside were teargassed. The journalist Andy Kelly, who works for Liverpool, wrote:

The police had set up blocks with their vans on the approach to the ramp which ran under the A1 motorway, that passes the stadium on its west side, to try to slow the flow of fans up to checks on tickets and bags. However, two and half hours before kick-off, when reporters from the Telegraph arrived, the checks had slowed to allow just a trickle of fans through and hundreds of fans were jammed together in a tight space.

There was confusion as groups were split up by the tightness of the crowd. The occasional fan without a ticket was pushed back into the crowd by security guards who were increasingly worried that they might lose control, causing more pressure on those waiting. The crowd stayed calm. It was made up of a majority of Liverpool fans but also many from Real Madrid and some neutrals. There was dismay at the upset caused to children who were stuck in the bottleneck.

Some said that they had encountered problems getting into the stadium before – even for Six Nations matches. Travel from central Paris to the stadium in the north of the city was not helped by industrial action that affected the service on the RER B line that runs to one of the two main stations that serves the stadium, La Plaine. It meant that many fans took the train to the alternative station, St Denis on the RER D line.

The French football federation agreed to host the game in late February when organisers Uefa moved the game from its original venue, St Petersburg, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Uefa has declined to comment thus far.

The former Liverpool chief executive, Peter Moore, described the scenes outside the Stade de France as "disgraceful". He dismissed Uefa claims that the delay to the kick-off was down to the late arrival of fans and said it was the consequence of "horrendous organisation".

BT Sport, who were broadcasting the game to the UK, were made aware of the problems outside the stadium as they players warmed up. While initial focus was on whether Thiago Alcantara had picked up an injury before kick-off, it became clear there were problems outside when fans sat near the TV gantry reported being teargassed.

Liverpool fans stand outside prior to the UEFA Champions League final football match - AFP
Liverpool fans stand outside prior to the UEFA Champions League final football match - AFP

"You hope the police can control it in the right way,” said former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who added it “wouldn't surprise me if there were 60,000-80,000 Liverpool fans in Paris”.

“You want it to be a positive experience and to be talking about the action on the pitch. You don't want an unsavoury event. The traffic was horrendous on the way. Let's hope everyone gets home safely.”

By the time the match kicked-off late, co-commentator Steve McManaman added: “Fans getting teargassed and families getting teargassed. Awful awful scenes.”

During the match, journalists from the Associated Press were ordered to delete video footage of crowd issues to gain entry to the stadium. And as the match was played, concourses on the Liverpool side of the ground were full, with fans not in seats.

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