An independent investigation into the traumatic events leading up to May’s Champions League final in Paris has found that Liverpool supporters were subjected to treatment that constituted “criminal assault”.
Fans were stopped, herded, attacked and exposed to tear gas by French police as they attempted to enter the Stade de France. A new report, prepared by academics who reviewed 485 eyewitness accounts from that evening, concluded that “those organizing and directing the event” were responsible for a “collapse of authority, management and security” that tragedy avoided only through preventive actions by fans.
“Continued, indiscriminate police attacks on fans and the unprovoked use of tear gas on men, women and children held in confined spaces have been reckless and dangerous. It constituted a criminal attack,” the report said.
“At the Stade de France, there were blatant errors in all aspects of UEFA’s responsibility for stadium safety. Continued failures in crowd management seriously jeopardized the health and well-being of fans.
“Fans’ statements clearly show that they have been endangered by aggressive policing, ineffective security measures and failure to implement comprehensive stadium safety management plans based on risk management principles.
“Based on their understanding, and some direct experience, of the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool fans have been able to avert a fatal tragedy through their collective action.”
The investigation was led by Professor Phil Scraton, who led the Hillsborough Independent Panel and is an advocate for the families of the 97 people who died in the disaster. Of the eyewitnesses interviewed by the investigation, two-thirds said they feared for their lives.
“It is difficult to understand the sequence of events that shaped the Paris debacle that left so many people physically injured, psychologically harmed and financially endangered,” Scraton said.
One person who got caught up in the chaos was the Mayor of the City of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram. In a BBC interview to be broadcast Monday night, he echoed what he told the Guardian last month: that he had warned Aleksander Ceferin of the dangers facing fans outside and that the UEFA president had cut the discussion.
Ceferin later wrote to the mayor that he had run away to resolve the unfolding situation. Rotheram believes fans’ trauma was the result of systemic issues. “This will continue to happen unless UEFA makes a concerted effort to ensure that fan safety is the primary objective of any of their games,” he told BBC Panorama.
UEFA has apologized to fans of Liverpool and Real Madrid, and French authorities have admitted making mistakes on the night. UEFA has not commented on Monday’s release of the report as it waits to publish its own investigation into the events next month.