Stade de France CCTV footage of “extremely violent” scenes outside the Champions League final in Paris last month was automatically deleted a week after the event because there were no requests from the French justice system to seize the videotape, a French football official said on Thursday.
Erwan Le Prévost, head of institutional relations for the French Football Federation (FFF), told the French Senate that these images were gone because they automatically self-delete after seven days, by law. If the French public prosecutor does not make a special request to seize them as part of an investigation, they disappear from the system, Le Prévost said. He said he had been in the security centre of the stadium that evening and described the images as “extremely violent”.
The Socialist senator David Assouline said he found it “abhorrent” that there were “extremely violent” CCTV images that simply automatically deleted themselves seven days later.
Le Prévost said there had been a French justice system inquiry opened in the days after the match, but pointed out that it was an investigation specifically into organised fraud over alleged fake ticket sales. No judicial request had been made to the FFF to seize and preserve the stadium’s CCTV footage.
Earlier the Paris police chief said his force’s handling of Liverpool supporters’ arrival was a failure but stood by the tactic of using teargas on the crowd.
The final was delayed by more than 30 minutes after French police officers forcefully held back people trying to enter the ground. Fans, including children, were teargassed. Many fans complained about getting mugged around the stadium.
Didier Lallement told the Senate hearing that the evening was “obviously a failure, because people were being shoved or assaulted when we owed them safety”. He added: “It’s also a failure because our country’s image was shaken.” But he argued that the police had succeeded in making sure “the match happened and above all there was no serious injury or death”.
Lallement said he had not anticipated what he called the “massive use” of fake tickets or the big crowds. He said teargas was the police’s only option to make sure people did not get crushed.
Asked about the use of teargas on supporters, he said it was “the only way to make a crowd back down except to charge them, and I think it would have been a serious mistake to charge people”. Lallement added: “I am well aware that people of good faith were gassed, and I am totally sorry for that, but I repeat, there was no other way.”
Lallement accepted to the Senate that there had been isolated “inappropriate” gestures by police officers in their use of teargas on Liverpool fans. He said that in a situation like this there were always officers “that let themselves be overcome by the irritation of the moment”. He said he knew of two instances and investigations had been opened into those officers.
Lallement said his early estimate of 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans without tickets or with fake tickets, who had tried to enter the final, may have been overstated. “Perhaps I was wrong,” he said. Lallement added that “from an operational standpoint” whether there were “40,000, 30,000 or 20,000, it didn’t change the fact that there were tens of thousands of people who could not fit in”.
The French government has maintained that much of the blame lay with Liverpool fans and that 30,000-40,000 arrived without valid tickets, which led to a crowd crush at the stadium and people trying to force their way in.
This version of events — outlined by Darmanin — has been challenged by Liverpool fans who attended and say the vast majority of their supporters were well-behaved but were treated in a heavy-handed manner by French riot police.
French senators pushed Lallement to explain the empirical evidence behind the figure for fake tickets, which he said had come through reports from police officials on the ground. “It was I who gave this figure to the minister, and I fully stand by it,” he said.
Pushed on the exact figure of 30,000 to 40,000, Lallement said that figure was his calculation based on information from Paris transport operators and Paris transport police. He said the figure was never an exact scientific figure but it was a valid estimation based on the volume of people taking all types of transport in the area. He maintained that his figure “perfectly reflected the situation” that there were, around the stadium, more supporters than could fit in the stadium – which was a key issue for the police.
Lallement said that these tens of thousands of people were in the general area of the stadium but not on the stadium forecourt.
According to the FFF, 110,000 people travelled to the Stade de France, which has a capacity of 75,000. Its director general, Florence Hardouin, told senators that “on average, 57 fake tickets were scanned every five minutes” from 6pm to 9.35pm. She said 66% of these 2,471 forged tickets were scanned at gates in the sector dedicated to Liverpool fans.
The Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram, who said he had personal belongings stolen at the game, challenged the French authorities’ version, saying that valid tickets were rejected because of faulty scanners. “The argument was used to scapegoat Liverpool fans,” he told the Senate commission.