Liverpool fans failed by UEFA after French police use pepper spray

DOMINIC KING: Liverpool fans have been failed AGAIN by UEFA after scenes of panic outside Stade de France. Police used pepper spray on children, parents and grandparents… I know because I could feel it

  • Liverpool lost the Champions League final 1-0 to Real Madrid at Stade de France
  • Reds fans were failed by UEFA after chaos outside the ground before the game 
  • Supporters in Paris were subjected to indiscriminate pepper-spraying by police 
  • Kick-off at the stadium was delayed half an hour as fans struggled to gain entry
  • Outraged Liverpool officials requested a formal investigation into the violence

You could feel the anger as you walked towards the steel fence by Gate Y. It was 10 minutes after the Champions League final should have started but there were thousands of Liverpool fans outside, wondering why the gates had been closed on them.

They were being failed by UEFA once again. The situation had been brewing for some time and UEFA had been left with no option but to delay kick-off. Outside turnstiles S, T and U, there was a mass of people but no plan for how to get them in smoothly.

All around, you could see UEFA officials looking at the scene with a mixture of panic and mortification. None of these people in suits were anywhere to be seen, however, when the situation took a horribly dark turn.

Kick-off at Stade de France in Paris was delayed following clashes between police and fans

As one of a group of reporters who had gone to Gate Y speak to the fans outside, to listen to their concerns and hear them vent their frustrations, I could see with my own eyes what was going on but it still took a remarkable turn.

From nowhere, people were coughing, spluttering and retching, rubbing their eyes furiously. For some inexplicable reason, the French police felt the answer to this problem was to indiscriminately pepper spray Liverpudlians, many of whom had been queuing to get into the stadium since 6pm.

There were young kids in the queue, grandparents; people who travel around the continent watching Liverpool and never have a moment’s problem. Yet here they were, being subjected to the treatment that would usually be reserved for a rioting mob.

There was no sign of Liverpool fans causing trouble outside the ground before the clashes

Let it be said for the importance of clarity: there was no sign of Liverpool fans causing trouble, no indication that they had come to cause problems. The atmosphere around Paris all weekend had been outstanding, just what you would hope for an occasion such as this one.

At the Stade De France, though, what were greeted with – once again – was a failing of football fans by the authorities. The stewarding and policing for this event was unacceptable, the treatment of some people an utter disgrace.

It would be disingenuous to suggest no fans tried to get in without tickets. This observer saw sporadic individuals – some of whom were evidently local – trying to break through the barriers but most were apprehended, wrestled to the floor with their arms wrenched up their backs.

Police used pepper spray on Reds fans, despite there being young children in the queue

One reporter from Associated Press took video footage at one point but the security guards didn’t like it, ripping his accreditation off him and threatening to turf him out of the stadium. He was given his credentials back but only after they had watched him delete his video.

But I was at Wembley last July for the European Championship final when thousands and thousands forced their way in without tickets and this, be under no illusion, was nothing like that whatsoever. What a shocking state of affairs.

Not surprisingly, Liverpool officials were incensed as news filtered back to them and they have demanded an official investigation be launched into the episode. They were appalled that UEFA attempted to say the issue was down to the late arrival of fans in Saint-Denis.

Liverpool officials have requested a full investigation into the pepper-spraying of their fans

In a statement, they said: ‘We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and break down of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced this evening at the Stade de France. This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.

‘We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues.

It didn’t feel right on the walk from Saint-Denis Porte de Paris Metro Station. It was hectic and crowded and febrile. It was the section of the stadium that Real Madrid fans were being funnelled towards but there was no structure.

Anfield side lost the game, their second Champions League final defeat by Madrid in four years

So it wasn’t just Liverpool fans who were put in jeopardy. In that underpass, the bottleneck was awful. Again there were locals chancing their arms without tickets, when they turned away they walked back into a crowd and with nowhere to go, it led to pushing and jostling.

It was 630pm, two-and-a-half hours before kick-off. Immediately, you began to wonder what the situation would be like a little later. The process to check tickets wasn’t adequate, the stewarding was limited: in short, all the ingredients for something to go wrong.

And, with this being UEFA, it did go wrong. It is a dereliction of duty, an absolute outrage that this should happen. The Champions League final is a place where fans should go to make memories that will last a lifetime. The memories many have from this trip to Paris will, regrettably, be tarnished.

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