Sport

FOOTBALL

Liverpool welcome Uefa report clearing fans over Champions League final chaos

Liverpool welcome Uefa report clearing fans over Champions League final chaos
Police spray tear gas at Liverpool fans outside the stadium prior to the Uefa Champions League final match between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Stade de France in Paris on 28 May 2022. (Photo:Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

After a nine-month investigation into the chaos that erupted outside the Stade de France ahead of the 2022 Champions League final – which authorities initially blamed on Liverpool fans – an independent report has exonerated the club.

Liverpool Football Club welcomed a review into the 2022 Champions League final that said organisers Uefa were responsible for the chaos before the game, calling on the European soccer governing body to “take positive and transparent action” to ensure the safety of fans.

Uefa apologised to Liverpool for initially blaming the Merseyside club’s fans for the mayhem, following the release of the independent review on Monday.

The final was delayed by 36 minutes after thousands of Liverpool supporters were unable to get into the Stade de France in Paris for the match on 28 May, which Real won 1-0, while French police were filmed using tear gas on fans, including women and children.

liverpool

Liverpool fans queue outside the stadium prior to the Uefa Champions League final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Stade de France in Paris on 28 May 2022. (Photo: Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

“(The report) fully vindicates Liverpool fans while finding Uefa primarily responsible for organisational failings, absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security, poor planning and lack of contingency plans,” Liverpool said in a statement on Tuesday.

Liverpool supporters ‘saved lives’

“The evidence-based panel report also found that there was ‘a clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush’, and that the actions of Liverpool supporters saved lives.”

The 220-page review followed an investigation chaired by Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a member of Portugal’s parliament. The probe had a panel including legal, policing and event-management consultants, as well as representatives from fan groups, which outlined 21 recommendations.

“… we call on Uefa and others at the top of the football regulation pyramid to come together and take positive and transparent action to ensure there are no more ‘near misses’,” Liverpool said.

“We implore Uefa to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the panel, no matter how difficult, to ensure supporter safety is the number one priority at the heart of every Uefa football fixture.”

Hillsborough disaster parallels ‘palpable’

The report added that the parallels between last year’s Champions League final and the 1989 Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster – in which 97 Liverpool supporters lost their lives – were “palpable”.

“It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster, any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many,” Liverpool said.

“But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering.”

liverpool

Liverpool FC fans hold a Ukrainian flag before the Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid at Stade de France in Paris on 28 May 2022. (Photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Following the final, much of the blame was placed on Liverpool fans by France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, but he acknowledged police were caught off-guard by several hundred local “delinquents” who turned up to cause trouble.

Liverpool supporters group, “Spirit of Shankly”, said the report had “exonerated” the Premier League club’s fans.

“The blame game began even before a ball was kicked, and in the immediate aftermath, those supposedly in charge – Uefa and the authorities – had no hesitation in pointing the finger at supporters,” the group said in a statement.

“But now, with the publication of the report, it is clear – the fans bear no culpability, the panel concluding ‘overarching organisational failures’ were the root of what went so badly wrong.”

Uefa apologises

Uefa apologised to Liverpool for initially blaming the Merseyside club’s fans for the mayhem following Monday’s release of the review.

The final “will be remembered as a moment of suffering for many fans, but should also be a reminder of a situation we certainly do not want to witness again in the future at any sporting event in Europe or anywhere in the world,” said Rodrigues in the report.

“Avoiding future disasters and improving the service provided at football events was the aim of the panel’s work during this process,” he added.

Uefa General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis said the soccer body “would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded on what should have been a celebration at the pinnacle of the club season”.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

He added: “In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool FC for the experiences many of them had when attending the game, and for the messages released prior to and during the game which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.”

Liverpool said they were disappointed that they had not received a copy of the report before it surfaced in several British media outlets hours before being officially released.

“It’s hugely disappointing that a report of such significance, such importance to football supporters’ lives and future safety, should be leaked and published in this way,” the Merseyside club said in a statement.

“It’s been over eight months of work by the independent panel and it is only right and proper to publish the contents of the report to our supporters appropriately.” DM/Reuters

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.