A leading Liverpool fans’ group said supporters were left fearing for their lives at last year’s Champions League final after a report into the chaos in Paris found UEFA responsible for “failures which almost led to disaster.”
Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at the Stade de France on May 28 was overshadowed by events surrounding European football’s showpiece event.
Kick-off was delayed by 37 minutes as fans struggled to access the stadium after being funnelled into overcrowded bottlenecks on approach.
Police then fired tear gas towards thousands of supporters locked behind metal fences on the perimeter to the stadium.
The report found there has been “a clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush” and that the action of Liverpool supporters had in fact saved lives.
“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,” said a statement from supporters group Spirit of Shankly.
“The fans have been exonerated. A breakdown in communication on the day, the failures of UEFA, the French police and authorities were to blame.”
UEFA initially tried to pin the blame on Liverpool fans arriving late despite thousands having been held for hours outside the stadium before kick-off.
“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,” added Spirit of Shankly.
The independent report, commissioned by UEFA, found that they bore “primary responsibility” for failings in planning, security and policing.
French police and authorities were also criticised for a heavy-handed response to supporters, based on incorrect assumptions that fans posed a threat to public order.
Liverpool called on UEFA to do the “right thing” in implementing 21 recommendations by the panel to ensure supporter safety at future events.
In a statement on Monday, UEFA apologised to Liverpool fans for “unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.”
Supporters seek damages
Over 2,000 fans have signed up to a class-action lawsuit against UEFA seeking damages for the physical and emotional trauma they suffered.
“We want our clients, alongside all other fans, who have been proven to be blameless, to be compensated for the psychological and physical trauma they experienced on that day,” said Tony Winterburn of law firm Pogust Goodhead, who are co-running the legal case.
“And for the subsequent trauma they experienced after the event when authorities continued to place blame at their door despite knowing this was untrue.”
Another of the report’s key findings was that the policing model was influenced by a view of Liverpool based on the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which caused the death of 97 fans.
After decades of fighting for justice, British police chiefs apologised to the families of the victims just last month, recognising that “police failures were the main cause of the tragedy”.
For many Liverpool fans the scenes in Paris provoked traumatic flashbacks of what happened at Hillsborough.
The Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance has seen a spike in fans seeking mental health support since events at the Stade de France.
“Shocking false narratives were peddled in the immediate aftermath of that night in Paris; narratives that have since been totally disproven,” added the Liverpool statement.
“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.
“But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering.”
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