PARIS (Reuters) – The French government on Monday blamed massive ticket fraud and Liverpool’s handling of their fans for the crowd trouble which marred the club’s Champions League soccer final against Real Madrid in Paris over the weekend.
But as a blame-game over the fiasco continued into Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the scenes outside the national stadium, which saw some fans including children tear-gassed by French police, as deeply upsetting.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Liverpool had provided their supporters with paper tickets, not electronic, which allowed for the possibility of what he described as a “massive fraud on an industrial scale”.
More than two thirds of the tickets presented by some 62,000 Liverpool supporters had been fakes, the minister added.
“I want to say once again that the decisions taken prevented deaths or serious injury,” Darmanin told reporters after holding an emergency meeting on Monday.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has commissioned a report into the trouble at the match, which Real won 1-0.
The kick off was delayed by more than 35 minutes as police tried to hold back people attempting to force their way into the national stadium without tickets. Some ticket holders complained that they were not let in.
Television footage showed images of young men who did not appear to be wearing red Liverpool jerseys jumping the gates of the stadium and running away from security to get into the match. Others outside, including women and youngsters, were tear-gassed by riot police, said a Reuters witness.
UEFA has commissioned an independent report into the events surrounding Saturday’s final after the ticket fraud and crowd trouble that marred the showpiece event in Paris, Europe’s soccer governing body said on Monday.
“The comprehensive review will examine decision making, responsibility and behaviours of all entities involved in the final,” UEFA said.
The crowd trouble has become a political issue ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections and embarrassed France, which hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and Olympic Games in 2024.
“The images are lamentable, they are disturbing because we can clearly see that we are not prepared for events such as the Olympic Games”, said far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon on Sunday, while his far-right rival Marine Le Pen called the incident a “humiliation” for France.
Liverpool Chief Executive Billy Hogan had said the club wanted a “transparent investigation” by governing body UEFA.
Britain’s Johnson was hugely disappointed by how Liverpool fans were treated in Paris, his spokesman said.
“The footage from the Stade de France this weekend was deeply upsetting and concerning. We know many Liverpool fans travelled to Paris in good time … and we’re hugely disappointed by how they were treated,” the spokesman said.
“We are urging UEFA to work closely with the French authorities on a full investigation and to publish those findings.”
Darmanin said there were no problems with Real Madrid supporters at Saturday’s match, most of whom he said had received electronic tickets, and that the Spanish side had managed to control their travelling fans better than Liverpool.
He acknowledged that police had been caught off-guard by local delinquents who turned up to cause trouble at the match. But defending the security protocols in place, the minister said France had only had three months to prepare after the final was moved from Russia.
Earlier, Sports Minister Oudea-Castera acknowledged that France nevertheless had to examine stepping up security at high-risk soccer matches, after crowd chaos also erupted on Sunday when St Etienne were relegated from France’s Ligue 1.
She has tasked Michel Cadot, inter-ministerial delegate for large sports events, with writing a report within 10 days outlining what happened on Saturday night and the lessons to take forward for the management of large sports events.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman, Layli Foroudi; writing by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Peter Rutherford, Edmund Blair/Christian Radnedge/Ken Ferris)