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Liverpool fans exonerated: UEFA to blame for Paris fiasco says new report

A six-month long investigation into the chaos at last May’s Champions League final says serious safety failures could have led to fatalities and UEFA bears “primary responsibility” for the chaos before the game.

The investigation, led by an independent panel appointed by UEFA to review the chaos that surrounded the final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris last May, contains damning criticisms of UEFA and the French police.

Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues headed up the panel on which the FSA’s Amanda Jacks and Football Supporters Europe Ronan Evain participated as supporter representatives.

They found numerous issues with access delays, congestion, crushing, turnstile closures, brutal policing and criminal attacks by local groups at European football’s showpiece match, and said that safety failures came close to causing a disaster in which people could have been killed.

“The dangerous conditions on the concourse outside the turnstiles were compounded by the police deploying teargas at disorderly groups of locals, as well as using pepper spray on supporters trying to gain entrance with valid tickets,” the report says.

“It is remarkable that no one lost their life. All the stakeholders interviewed by the panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe.”

Liverpool’s supporter union Spirit of Shankly called on UEFA to accept all the findings and recommendations of the report, as well as apologising to supporters for the misleading statements issued to media in the immediate aftermath.

“What should have been the highlight of the season for travelling supporters of Liverpool and Real Madrid – in UEFA’s words a ‘festival of football’ – turned out to be a maelstrom of chaos and alarm that led to some fans fearing for their life,” they said.

“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.

“But now with the publication of the report, it is clear, the fans bear no culpability”

The panel’s report criticises UEFA for delegating, almost entirely, planning and operations to the Paris Préfecture de Police and the French Football Federation (FFF).

Paris’s police force were additionally criticised for not working with other stakeholders organising the final, failing to address congestion on a notoriously problematic access routes around Stade de France, using disproportionate “weaponry” such as teargas and pepper spray without sufficient justification on fans, failing to engage with the local community, and “standing by” while supporters were being mugged or physically attacked.

FSA’s head of policing and casework Amanda Jacks said: “This is a total exoneration of Liverpool fans who were smeared by those responsible for this fiasco in an attempt to cover up their own failings.

“The panel has made clear to UEFA that this report has to be taken seriously and cannot be allowed to sit in a drawer gathering dust. Subsequently, the panel recommended that UEFA publish an action plan detailing how they will ensure the recommendations are acted upon.

“Supporter groups across Europe have long called for a higher standard of policing, stewarding and fan experience across all European club fixtures. Fans can continue to play a part by ensuring their own clubs read this report and take note.

“Lasting, positive change has to come from this.”

UEFA said it is “currently analysing the findings of the review” and said it would “introduce appropriate changes and arrangements to ensure the highest level of safety for fans at future finals.”

Additionally, UEFA said it will announce a special refund scheme for fans in the coming months.

“The fans have been exonerated,” Spirit of Shankly say. “A breakdown in communication on the day, the failures of UEFA, the French police and authorities were to blame.

“The shame – beginning with the stadium billboard announcing kick-off was delayed due to fans arriving late, supporters being tear gassed and pepper sprayed, pick-pocketed and attacked, people frightened they were going to die – is on them.

“We would like to thank the Panel for their forensic approach, dedication and analysis in finding the truth.”

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