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.”
Gérald Darmanin: "30.000 à 40.000 supporters anglais se sont retrouvés au Stade de France sans billet ou avec des billets falsifiés" pic.twitter.com/ArJbXVbenm
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) May 30, 2022
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.