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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
Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement supervises vehicles as they arrive in southern Paris in February 2022 (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

“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.

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PARIS

Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Public transport users in the Paris region may be facing higher prices for tickets and travel passes in the new year, as the region's transport network attempts to meet €950 million in additional costs for 2023.

Paris public transport ticket prices set to rise in 2023

Grappling with rising costs, local authorities for the Paris region are considering raising the price of tickets and the monthly Navigo pass for the capital’s public transport system.

These new fares would come into effect on January 1st, 2023 – although local authorities still have to approve the price rises, which will be put to the vote on December 7th, and the government may yet step in to shield commuters from the sharpest increases. 

According to information leaked to French media, the cost of a single ticket – currently set at €1.90 – could go up by 21 percent – reaching €2.30 in the new year. Paris runs an integrated public transport system which means that tickets can be used on the Metro, tram, bus or RER train services. 

Fans of the 10-ticket carnet could see prices go up to €20.30, a rise from €16.90 for paper ticket purchasers and from €14.90 for mobile phone app and Navigo easy users.

As for the Navigo pass – the monthly rail card – which will be the focus of daily transport users in the Ile-de-France, the region’s President Valérie Pécresse warned that it could jump from the current €75.20 per month to €90. 

Other travel passes are also predicted to see a rise – the weekly Navigo semaine from €22.80 to €31, and the Navigo annual from €827.20 to €990.

READ MORE: Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

The transport system is considering price rises because it faces €950 million in additional costs for 2023, as a result of energy rates rising and the fact that the transport system will begin owing payments to the French government on their “Covid loans” in the year 2023. 

While the increase in single ride fares to €2.30 could bring in an additional €500 million, the region’s transport operators would still be short by €450 million.

Possible outcomes

In order to avoid sharp increases to fares for passengers, there are three possible solutions that have been put forward by President of the Region, Valérie Pecresse. 

The first option would be a sort of fare shield. This would keep the price of a Navigo pass at €75.20 by relying on the State for various aids, such as transforming the region’s “Covid loans” of €2 billion into a subsidy, spreading out repayments between 2023 and 2036, and lowering the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10 percent to 5.5 percent, which would bring in €150 million per year. So far these proposals have not been met with support.

The second possible solution would be a uniform increase of 7.5 percent from all contributing parties to the transport system, Île de France Mobilités (IDFM).

Currently, the IDFM is financed in 12 percent by the region, 38 percent by passengers, and 50 percent by contributions from private companies. If a 7.5 percent increase was applied across the board, the impact on passengers would be an increase in the Navigo pass to €80.80 euros per month.

And the third possibility, one that has been championed by Pécresse, would be to increase the contribution of companies in Paris and the inner suburbs to the ‘Mobility’ fund. However, this would have to be done by an amendment to the French government’s Finance Bill, and as of late November, parliament stood opposed to tax increases on these companies.

Without any of these solutions taking place, Pécresse has warned that users would have to withstand a 20 percent price increase, meaning a monthly Navigo pass costing between €90 to €100.

Pécresse has called this possibility “socially unbearable” and “anti-environmental.”

The Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, told RMC on Monday that the ministry will to “everything to avoid an increase to the Navigo pass,” adding that discussions were still underway.

Meanwhile, the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, told France Inter that the government plans to “identify ways and means to avoid an increase as significant as that which has been cited” in discussions with the region.

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