Police ‘aggressive and provocative’ in Paris, Liverpool fans’ groups tell hearing | Champions League

Parisian police were aggressive, provocative and prejudiced against Liverpool fans from the moment they arrived for the Champions League final in Paris last month, a French parliamentary committee said on Tuesday.

Addressing the audience on the events in the French capital on May 28, representatives of Liverpool supporters described the terror of being attacked by police with tear gas and pepper spray on the one hand and gangs local muggers and other pickpockets at the Stade de France before and after their game against Real Madrid. Children as young as six were “griefed and traumatized” and feared for their lives, the all-party committee of senators said.

The country’s home secretary, Gérald Darmanin, was accused of lying when he blamed England fans for the chaos and violence away from the match, with Ted Morris, secretary of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, who was at the wheelchair game, calling on Darmanin to apologize and resign.

Giving evidence, Morris said Liverpool fans were subjected to “shocking treatment” and that it was the fans, not the police, who prevented a “major disaster”.

“The authorities should be ashamed of themselves,” Morris said. “They [fans] were treated like animals. They were treated with so much contempt.

Morris, who relayed a series of stories from terrified fans in Paris, said the unfair accusations against Liverpool supporters were particularly damaging as they had opened the wounds of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989. “Mr Darmanin has lied and added to our pain and trauma. I ask him to have the decency to withdraw his remarks and resign. We have known the lies for 33 years. Establishing the truth today is extremely important to us. Much more important than you can imagine.

Joe Blott, chairman of Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly, said Liverpool supporters had shown exemplary behavior throughout their team’s run to the final, but when they came to Paris , they faced “aggressive”, provocative and unfairly biased against them from the start. He said police treated Liverpool supporters as if they “were all hooligans”.

Blott said: “Ninety-seven people were killed in Hillsborough because of a failure of the authorities, namely the police. This is the truth and to hear the French authorities repeating the same kind of lies 33 years later in 2022, that the fans were late and had fake tickets and were drunk, causes extreme pain and misery among English fans. It’s heartbreaking for Liverpool fans everywhere.

Emilio Dumas Kremer, Franco-Spanish supporter of Real Madrid who was present during the final, echoed the testimony of Liverpool supporters. He called the events around the stadium a “humiliation” for France and accused the authorities of a lack of security and organisation. He told how French police stood by as local youths assaulted real fans with phones, wallets and purses. “Liverpool fans were peaceful and correct,” he said. “I don’t understand the accusations from the French authorities… accusing them of things that weren’t true. My team won but I have very bad memories of this match which left a very bad image of France.

Senator Francois-Noël Buffet, overseeing the afternoon committee hearing, made it clear that England fans were not to blame for the chaos at the Stade de France. He thanked Liverpool representatives for giving evidence and said he was confident “the English fans were not to blame for this incident”.

Senator Francois-Noel Buffet
Senator Francois-Noël Buffet has said Liverpool fans were not to blame for the chaos of the Champions League final in May. Photography: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

Ronan Evain, chief executive of the Football Supporters Europe Association, also blamed the police at the game and told the committee that Liverpool fans “were treated as we are treated all year… with threats”. He said there was no other point of contact for fans in Paris apart from the riot police. Evain then accused French police behavior of being “dangerous and dated” and called for a “more modern approach” by policing.

The senators of the commission, who went to the Stade de France last week, conclude their investigation on Wednesday.

Earlier today, UEFA’s events director general Martin Kallen told the committee that the decision to stage the Champions League final in Paris – after it had to be moved from St Petersburg following the Russian invasion of Ukraine – was not the result of lobbying by France. Kallen said he would have preferred to stage the match at Wembley as it could accommodate 90,000 spectators, compared to 70,000 at the Stade de France, but the London stadium was already booked.

Kallen disputed claims by Darmanin and Didier Lallement, the Paris police chief, that between 30,000 and 40,000 English fans showed up either without tickets or with fake tickets. Darmanin claimed that there had been “massive, industrial and organized fraud in counterfeit notes”.

Kallen said: “We know there were around 2,600 counterfeit notes that were presented at the turnstiles. Admittedly, there were several thousand counterfeit notes, but we cannot say how many with certainty. We cannot verify the figures given in France of 30,000 to 40,000 counterfeit banknotes. He added that UEFA hoped to rely a lot more on e-tickets, but admitted “it takes a lot of testing to get there”.

Kallen said Liverpool had alerted UEFA in advance to the risk of counterfeit tickets, but said counterfeit tickets were not the only cause of the obvious failures in staging the match. “The causes are multiple,” he admitted. “There was the transport strike which changed the flow of supporters. There was the bad reaction from the stewards and the police, the problems of delinquency around the stadium.

UEFA is carrying out its own investigation into the events of May 28. The governing body has instructed Portuguese Sports Minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues to carry out an independent investigation. Kallen said the investigation would take at least three months and “everything will be discussed.”

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