France blames ticket fraud for Champions League final chaos
PARIS (AP) — French authorities defended police on Monday for indiscriminately firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters at the Champions League final, while blaming industrial levels of fraud that saw 30,000 to 40,000 people try to enter the Stade de France with fake tickets or none at all.
UEFA ordered an independent report that it said would “examine decision making, responsibility and behaviors of all entities involved in the final” and be made public.
After a meeting into Saturday’s chaos, the French ministers of the sport and the interior shifted responsibility onto the Liverpool fans while not providing details on how they were sure so many fake tickets were in circulation. People with legitimate tickets bought through Liverpool and UEFA reported struggling to access the stadium.
“There was massive fraud at an industrial level and an organization of fake tickets because of the pre-filtering by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation, 70% of the tickets were fake tickets coming into the Stade de France,” Interior minister Gérald Darmanin said. “Fifteen percent of fake tickets also were after the first filtering … more than 2,600 tickets were confirmed by UEFA as non-validated tickets even though they’d gone through the first filtering.
The French sports ministry provided no evidence for its claims and it did not respond to a follow-up email after hosting a combative news conference.
“A massive presence of these fake tickets of course was the issue why there were delays,” Darmanin said. “Three times the beginning of the match was delayed.”
The final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, kicked off 37 minutes late.
Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said it was “completely inappropriate” for the French authorities to be forming conclusions and commenting on numbers so early.
“At this stage I think it’s just not responsible to be making comments before we’ve actually gathered all the information,” Hogan said. “How can (the number of fans without tickets) be quantified at this stage, before we’ve had an independent and transparent investigation? There’s also been quotes about people with fake tickets. But, again, how do we know all the facts until we’ve had an investigation?”
Hogan said Liverpool was “reviewing legal avenues” on behalf of supporters.
“The Champions League final should be one of the finest spectacles in football and it resulted in one of the worst experiences of many supporters’ lives. So, I would say that all politicians and agencies involved in this event need to wait until a full and independent investigation is concluded before attempting to shift blame.”
Tear gas and pepper spray was targeted at Liverpool fans, impacting children — a tactic defended by Darmanin to prevent deaths.
“I’d like to thank the forces of law and order, also those who worked in the stadium because they were very calm and they were able to avoid drama and so thank you for organizing the pre-filtering but lifting it when there was too much pressure to avoid a drama,” Darmanin said. “That was a decision made by the prefecture to avoid any kind of deaths or seriously injured.”
French Sports minister Amélie Ouéda-Castéra blamed fans arriving at the stadium late for the crowd control issues, but did not say when they should have arrived at the stadium on the outskirts of Paris.
“We have seen, we have to improve in risky matches certain aspects with regard to managing the flows, first filtering, second filtering, and we have to make sure we look at electronic ticketing as closely as possible so we can avoid fraud as far as ticketing is concerned,” Ouéda-Castéra said. “That is something which is absolutely essential.”
Ouéda-Castéra did say supporters who couldn’t get into the stadium should be compensated, but ignored questions as she left the news conference where Ouéda-Castéra.
“We are extremely sorry for all the people whose experience was wasted all that evening,” Ouéda-Castéra said. “For the people who had bought tickets and were unable to attend the match. That’s why we have asked UEFA to really work on a compensation system for those people — 2,700, including British people — so that they get compensation.”
UEFA did not raise the issue of compensating fans in its statement about its own investigation.
“Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed,” UEFA said, without giving a timeline.
French authorities will set up a working group to prevent violence in stadiums and target troublemakers after seeing a spate of incidents this season in domestic games.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report
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