French ministers to meet Paris police ‘to draw lessons’ from Stade de France fiasco

French ministers will meet with police and local authorities in a big to learn the "lessons" from the chaos that unfolded before the Champions League final as questions arise over Paris' ability to host big sporting events such as the Olympics.

French ministers to meet Paris police 'to draw lessons' from Stade de France fiasco
Police stand in front of fans prior to the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

The French sports minister on Sunday said she was calling a meeting of security and football authorities to ensure the chaos
that marred the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in 2024 Olympics host Paris was not repeated in the future.

“The priority now is to identify very precisely what went wrong… in order to learn all the lessons so that such incidents do not happen again at our future major international sporting events,” Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said in a statement, adding the meeting would take place Monday morning.

Initially the minister had blamed Liverpool fans with fake tickets or without tickets for storming the gates and causing the chaos that led to the match being delayed.

The meeting would include representatives of UEFA, the French football federation, the region of Seine-Saint-Denis where the stadium is located, as well as Paris police chief Didier Lallement, she added.

Paris and police faces questions as Olympics approach

French authorities faced questions Sunday over police tactics at the Paris Champions League final between Liverpool and Real
Madrid that descended into scenes of chaos before kick-off, with critics asking if the capital was ready to host the Olympics in two years time.

Liverpool called for an investigation into the treatment of their supporters ahead of the game at Paris’ Stade de France on Saturday which the club said left thousands of ticket holders struggling to enter the stadium.

The scenes — which saw some people manage to vault into the stadium while evading security and police use tear gas — were not what the French capital wanted two years before it hosts the 2024 Olympics and one year before the same venue hosts the rugby World Cup final.

The French interior ministry said 105 people had been detained, of whom 39 were placed under arrest and remanded in custody meaning they could face charges.

UEFA blamed “fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles” for the 35-minute delay to the final.

But Liverpool said they were “hugely disappointed” that their supporters had been subjected to an “unacceptable” breakdown of the security perimeter.

“We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues,” the club said.

Merseyside Police, which had officers deployed in Paris, said “the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner”.

The UK government’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News that the English fans were “treated with a very aggressive approach.”

‘Complete failure’

But French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin pointed the finger at Liverpool fans, saying “thousands of British ‘supporters’ either without tickets or with fake ones forced their way through and sometimes behaved violently towards the stewards”.

Yet political foes of the government and President Emmanuel Macron said that the scenes pointed to wider problems in France and shamed the country.

“The image this gives is lamentable and it is also worrying because we see that we are not prepared for events like the Olympic Games,” far-left French politician Jean-Luc Melenchon told BFM-TV.

He denounced “a complete failure of the police strategy… the people were treated as they usually are during any kind of demonstration. We can’t continue like this.”

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen told RTL that the world had seen on Saturday that “France is no longer able to organise major events without things degenerating.”

French newspaper Le Monde commented: “The party that was supposed to precede the final… was spoilt and turned into real chaos.”

“From party to fiasco,” said France’s leading sports daily L’Equipe.

Merseyside’s leading regional newspaper the Liverpool Echo argued that poor organisation and not the Liverpool fans were to blame.

“UEFA’s shameless attempts to control (the) Liverpool narrative show they’ll never learn after Champions League disgrace,” it said.

Aurore Berge, a deputy for Macron’s ruling party, said Paris had “barely three months” to get ready for the final which it was awarded after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the event due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For Ronan Evain, executive director of the Football Supporters Europe network, the events “raises the question of France’s ability to organise events of this size”.

“We continue to see the same organisational strategy that have already failed in the past. There is a very strong need to modernise the approach to securing these events,” he told AFP.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Paris police chief accepts Champions League final ‘failure’ as CCTV images deleted

The head of Paris police acknowledged on Thursday a "failure" around Champions League final and admitted his claim of up to 40,000 Liverpool fans without valid tickets may have been a mistake. It also emerged CCTV images from the stadium were automatically deleted.

Paris police chief accepts Champions League final 'failure' as CCTV images deleted

“It is obviously a failure,” Didier Lallement told a commission investigating the fiasco at the French Senate. “It was a failure because people were pushed around and attacked. It’s a failure because the image of the country was tarnished.”

Lallement and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin have been under severe pressure since the May 28 match after they initially blamed the chaos on as many as 40,000 Liverpool fans who massed at the stadium without tickets or with counterfeit tickets.

‘Perhaps I made a mistake with the figure’

That figure has been widely disputed since by witnesses and media using images from the ground, leading Lallement to face repeated questions from senators who grew frustrated at his responses.

“Perhaps I made a mistake with the figure I gave to the minister,” he said, saying he had based his estimate on the numbers of people using public transport and from feedback from officers on site. “I never claimed that it was absolutely accurate,” adding that “the figure was not based on scientific evidence”.

He admitted there were not 30,000 to 40,000 “at the gates of the stadium” but maintained that several thousands were “in the vicinity” of police checkpoints at the Stade de France to the north of the capital.

Many Liverpool supporters struggled to enter the stadium, leading to kick-off being delayed by more than half an hour and crushes at the entry gates, where police fired tear gas.

Fans also complained about bottlenecks leading to the stadium created by police deployments, but Lallement said the checkpoints were anti-terror measures “for a risk that is still real”.

The government’s initial decision to blame Liverpool fans for the problems caused tensions between France and Britain, while raising questions about the capacity of Paris to host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympic Games in 2024.

‘300 to 400 delinquents’

Lallement said he regretted having to authorise the use of tear gas to move supporters away from the stadium before the game, which affected mostly Liverpool fans including children and disabled people.

“I’m totally sorry on behalf of the police department, but there was unfortunately no other way,” he told senators, adding that the only other option was a baton-charge, which he ruled out as too dangerous.

“I would do the same thing again,” he said, saying that he believed his decisions had saved lives.

Asked about street crime outside the stadium, which many fans described as terrifying, Lallement estimated that there were 300 to 400 “delinquents” who robbed or physically assaulted people as they left the game, which Real Madrid won 1-0.

Deleted CCTV footage

Executives from the French Football Federation, which was responsible for organising the game, expressed their regrets for chaos they blamed on a strike on one of the train lines to the stadium, fake tickets and local gangs.

Speaking to senators, director general Florence Hardouin said 2,471 fake tickets had been detected at turnstiles — much higher than the average of around 300 for similar events in the past.

The federation also revealed that Stade de France CCTV footage from the ground had been automatically deleted — in line with French law that stipulates it must be destroyed within seven days unless it is subject to a warrant from judicial authorities.

The FFF’s Erwan Le Prevost told shocked senators that he had been watching the CCTV cameras all day at his post and described the images as “extremely violent”.

“We’re surprised,” the Senate commission’s co-president, Laurent Lafon, told AFP, adding that an investigation was opened the day after the game (to investigate the presence of fake tickets).

“There was plenty of time to request them (the images). We need to understand what happened.”

He said the debacle at the stadium appeared to be “an accumulation of dysfunctions” linked to a “lack of preparation.”

Senator François-Noël Buffet described the missing CCTV images as “a serious problem” and promised to investigate the reasons why no authority had demanded the CCTV images within 7 days.

Paris police then tweeted out a clarification insisting they still had images in their possession that were available to any judicial investigation and people “shouldn’t get confused between images from the police and those of a private operator.”

Liverpool fans were ‘scapegoats’

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region who was at the game, also testified to the Senate on Thursday, calling the issue of fake tickets a “red herring”.

“People’s memories will forever be tarred by the lack of organisation and heavy-handed policing, and then of course the way authorities tried to deflect blame and scapegoat Liverpool fans for their incompetence,” he told AFP before the hearing.

He was a victim of pickpockets before the game, losing his phone, ticket and cards as he made his way to the stadium.

He accused France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin of trying to “cheat the French public but also world’s media” by presenting a false version of events at the stadium.

France offered to host the game after it was stripped from Saint Petersburg in Russia in February by the European football body UEFA, following Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.