French government blames ‘massive, industrial-scale’ ticket fraud for Stade de France chaos

The French government has blamed 'massive, industrial scale' fake ticket fraud for the chaotic scenes at the Stade de France on Saturday night, insisting that between 30,000 and 40,000 British fans were at the ground with either no tickets or fake tickets - a claim hotly disputed by journalists, Liverpool and their fans.

French government blames 'massive, industrial-scale' ticket fraud for Stade de France chaos
Liverpool fans stand outside unable to get in in time leading to the match being delayed 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 final of the Champions League between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid was marred by chaotic scenes with Liverpool fans queuing for hours to get into the ground and police filmed tear-gassing supporters, including children.

Fans blamed poor organisation from police and UEFA, saying that supporters were blocked from entry to the stadium and held for hours in an underpass to gain access to the stadium.

Many also reported being attacked and mugged by youths who appeared to be from the local area.

The match eventually got underway more than half an hour late.

UEFA initially blamed fans turning up with fake tickets – which did not work on scanners and blocked entrances – for the chaos.

Speaking after a meeting held between ministers, UEFA, police and local authorities on Monday morning, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin elaborated on the theme, saying: “What has been confirmed is a massive, industrial-scale and organised fraud in fake tickets… this was the root cause of the delay to the match.”   

He also expressed regret some supporters with genuine tickets had been unable to access the stadium.

He said: “Between 30,000 and 40,000 English fans – a number confirmed by UEFA, by the Stade de France, by the French football federation and by police – were found at Stade de France with either no tickets or fake tickets.

“We have consulted with public transport authorities who confirmed 40 percent more passengers than expected – 79,000 on trains plus 16,000 by bus and several thousand by car arriving at Stade de France [which has a total capacity of 80,000].

He said any doubts about France’s ability to organise the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024 were unfounded.

“The comparison with the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics seems to be rather disproportionate for me, given that obviously it is only with football, and singularly only with football and with certain English clubs, that there are these events,” he told a press conference.

Darmanin also suggested that Liverpool fans without tickets had caused “the same kind of difficulties” at the Champions League in Madrid in 2019. That final however passed off without any major issues at the turnstiles and on time.

He said that at one of the pre-check points on route to the stadium, 70 percent of tickets were found to be fake, although he did not specify which checkpoint.

Referring to the bottleneck of supporters outside the entrance to the RER D train station, Darmanin acknowledged that strike action on RER B had lead to more people than usual arriving by RER D and had caused problems.

Darmanin didn’t acknowledge, however, that to get from the Liverpool fanzone near Nation the easiest way was to get on RER D at Gare de Lyon or Châtelet, a fact that would have been known in advance.

Pierre Barthélemy a lawyer for French supporters clubs was at the Stade de France monitoring the organisation of the day said the figure of 30,000 40,000 chosen by the French government was “delirious”.

“Why not just say a million? The numbers just don’t correspond to what everyone could see,” Barthélemy said. 

If that was true, he said, then we would have seen 40,000 people returning to Paris on public transport.

Darmanin’s version of events remains in stark contrast to that offered by fans, British and French journalists and Liverpool FC and Merseyside police, who blamed poor organisation at the stadium for the delays – with fans queuing for hours to get in and many genuine ticket-holders unable to access the game.

In the hour before kick-off there were attempts to force entry to the stadium – some by people in football jerseys but some by what appeared to be local youths.

Darmnin said that of the 29 arrests made in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, more than half were British fans with nine arrested for attempting to enter without a ticket. 

The French minister acknowledged that “not everything had been perfect,” saying he had seen several videos in which individual officers were shown making use of teargas in an inappropriate fashion.

But he added: “I find it rather low and inappropriate to criticise not only the police but also individually the police prefect,” he said, referring to Paris police chief Didier Lallement who is in charge of security in the capital.

Darmanin’s statements will likely cause more anger in the UK where the government has called for an enquiry.

“We’re hugely disappointed by how they were treated,” a spokesperson for the British PM Boris Johnson. “Fans deserve to know what happened.”

Football Supporters Europe, a lobbying group representing fans around the continent, has also hit out at security arrangements.

“Fans at the Champions League final bear no responsibility for tonight’s fiasco,” it tweeted before the match finally got underway.

Many of the seats in the official Liverpool end of the ground remained empty 25 minutes after the scheduled start time. Kick-off was delayed twice, with an in-ground announcement saying it was down to “fans arriving late” while UEFA said they delay was “due to a security issue”.

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said French authorities were “extremely sorry” for the approximately 2,700 fans with tickets that were unable to enter the Stade de France because of the crowd control problems and suggested they receive compensation.

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Police raid French rugby World Cup HQ

Organisers of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France said police raided their offices on Wednesday as prosecutors announced they had opened an inquiry into the management of the competition.

Police raid French rugby World Cup HQ

The national financial crimes prosecutor’s office announced they were investigating possible favouritism, corruption and influence-peddling under the former chief executive of the organising committee, Claude Atcher, who was sacked last month.

France is hosting the men’s rugby World Cup in 2023 – matches take place in nine venues across the country from September 8th. 

Atcher was sacked last month after an internal investigation reported “alarming managerial practices” amid allegations of bullying and harassment from staff.

The national financial crimes prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday for the first time that it had opened an investigation into possible favouritism, corruption and influence-peddling.

The probe followed a referral from auditors at the finance and sports ministries, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement that confirmed raids were underway at different locations.

France’s L’Equipe newspaper said investigators were looking into the misuse of personal expenses, “certain contracts in the past and also alleged irregularities linked to the ticketing system for the 2023 World Cup.”

Atcher’s deputy Julien Collette took over from him as chief executive.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 8th next year with hosts France playing New Zealand at the Stade de France. The final is scheduled for Saturday, October 28th.

The dysfunctions in the World Cup organising committee are an unwelcome embarrassment for France as it prepares to host the Olympics in 2024.