Paris police were aggressive, provocative and prejudiced against Liverpool supporters from the moment they arrived for the Champions League final in Paris last month, a French parliamentary commission heard on Tuesday.
Addressing the hearing into events in the French capital on 28 May, Liverpool fans’ representatives described the terror of being attacked by police with tear gas and pepper spray on one hand and gangs of local muggers and pickpockets on the other at the Stade de France before and after their match against Real Madrid. Children as young as six were “distressed and traumatised” and feared for their lives, the cross-party committee of senators was told.
The country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, was accused of lying when he blamed English fans for the chaos and violence outside the match, with Ted Morris, secretary of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, who was at the match in a wheelchair, calling for Darmanin to apologise and resign.
Giving evidence, Morris said Liverpool fans were subject to “shocking treatment” and that it was the fans and not police who had prevented a “major catastrophe”. “The authorities should be ashamed,” said Morris. “They [fans] were treated like animals. They were treated with so much contempt.”
Morris, who relayed a series of stories from terrified fans present in Paris, said the unjust accusations against Liverpool supporters were especially injurious as they had opened wounds from the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy. “Mr Darmanin lied and has made our pain and trauma worse. I ask him to have the decency to withdraw his comments and to resign,” he said. “We have known lies for 33 years. To establish the truth today is extremely important for us. Much more important than you can imagine.”
Joe Blott, chairman of the Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, said Liverpool fans had shown exemplary behaviour throughout their team’s run to the final but when they came to Paris were faced with “aggressive” riot police who were provocative and unjustly prejudiced against them from the start. He said police had treated the Liverpool fans as if they “were all hooligans”.
“Ninety-seven people were killed at Hillsborough because of a failure of the authorities namely the police. That is the truth and to hear the French authorities repeat the same kind of lies 33 years later in 2022, that fans were late and had fake tickets and were drunk causes extreme pain and misery among English fans,” Blott said. “It is heartbreaking for Liverpool fans around the world.”
Emilio Dumas Kremer, a Franco-Spanish Real Madrid supporter who was at the final, echoed the evidence of Liverpool fans. He described the events around the stadium as a “humiliation” for France and accused the authorities of a lack of security and organisation. He told how French police had stood by as local youths mugged Real fans of telephones, wallets and handbags.
“The Liverpool fans were pacifist and correct,” he said. “I don’t understand the accusations of the French authorities … accusing them of things that were not true. My team won but I have a very bad memory of that match that left a very bad image of France.”
Senator François-Noël Buffet, overseeing the afternoon committee hearing, made it clear that English fans were not to blame for the chaos at the Stade de France. He thanked the Liverpool representatives for giving evidence and stated it was his belief that “English supporters were not to blame for this incident”.
Ronan Evain, director general of the Football Supporters Europe Association, also blamed police at the match and told the committee Liverpool fans “were treated as we are treated all year round … with threats.” He said there was no other point of contact for fans in Paris apart from anti-riot police. Evain went on to accuse French police behaviour of being “dangerous and dated” and called for a “more modern approach” to policing.
The senators on the committee, who visited the Stade de France last week, conclude their inquiry on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Martin Kallen, director general of Uefa Events, told the committee the decision to hold the Champions League final in Paris – after it had to be moved from St Petersburg following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – did not result from lobbying by France. Kallen said he would have preferred to hold the match at Wembley because it could hold 90,000 spectators, compared with 70,000 in the Stade de France, but the stadium in London was already booked.
Kallen disputed claims by Darmanin and Didier Lallement, the Paris police prefect, that between 30,000-40,000 English fans had turned up either without tickets or with fake tickets. Darmanin claimed there had been “a massive, industrial and organised fraud in false tickets”.
Kallen said: “We know there were around 2,600 fake tickets that were presented at the turnstiles. Certainly there were several thousand tickets that were false but we cannot say how many for sure. We cannot verify the figures given in France of 30-40,000 false tickets.” He added that Uefa hoped to rely far more on electronic tickets but admitted “it requires a lot of testing to get there”.
Kallen said Liverpool had alerted Uefa to the risk of counterfeit tickets in advance, but said the counterfeit tickets were not the only cause of the clear failures in the organisation of the match. “The causes are multiple,” he admitted. “There was the transport strike which changed the flow of supporters. There was the poor reaction of the stewards and the police, the problems of delinquency around the stadium.”
Uefa is carrying out its own investigation into events on 28 May. The governing body has appointed the Portuguese sports minister, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, to carry out an independent investigation. Kallen said the investigation would take at least three months and “all will be discussed”.