One of the main claims made by French officials to explain the chaotic crowd scenes that led to a dangerous rush of fans ahead of last weekend’s Champions League final near Paris was that tens of thousands of people came to the match with fake tickets.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has claimed that up to 70 percent of the tickets presented at the Stade de France in St Denis are fake. He said at a news conference Monday that the “root cause” of the chaos was gross 30,000 to 40,000 English fans with fake tickets – or no tickets – blocking the entrances.
But according to official figures verified by the New York Times, the exact number of counterfeit tickets intercepted by stewards at the front gates was much lower: 2,589, to be precise.
That number is nearly three times the usual number of fakes at the Champions League final, a game widely regarded as European football’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, but significantly lower than the number used by Darmanin, which as of Wednesday said none Details had been announced by the source of his estimate.
Darmanin and France’s Sport Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who is making similar claims about counterfeit tickets, have faced growing criticism of the game’s handling. French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for “full transparency” in an investigation into matchday scenes and their causes. Appearing before a French Senate committee later Wednesday, Darmanin admitted, “Clearly things could have been better organized.”
“It’s obvious,” he added, “that this sports festival has been ruined.”
During an irritated appearance before the committee, Darmanin and Oudéa-Castéra came under sustained pressure because of the organizational failures. In response, they largely repeated the language that has infuriated Liverpool, their fans and members of the UK government.
At one point, Oudéa-Castera told lawmakers that French authorities believe Liverpool fans carry a “very specific risk”, without elaborating on what she meant.
Darmanin, meanwhile, insisted the fake ticket numbers were of unprecedented proportions, claiming there were once so many that stadium security thought their validation tools were flawed.
The hearing lasted more than an hour and ended with little clarity and officials doubling down on their previous claims, again with no evidence to support their conclusions.
That prompted one lawmaker to question: “Since Saturday we’ve been blaming Liverpool fans and the club, striking workers and locals for the chaos. What allows you to make these statements without a thorough investigation?”
Not all participants had the same experience at the final. While most Real Madrid fans arrived with electronic tickets, Liverpool requested paper tickets for their official allocation of 23,000 tickets. These tickets came with two main security features: one that had to be confirmed with a chemical pen and a second that was a laser engraving of the Champions League trophy.
Those holding tickets without the two security features were denied entry by stewards at a first checkpoint far from the stadium’s barcode readers. But that system collapsed under a flood of fans: to relieve the growing influx of people, officials abandoned those initial controls and allowed the crowds to move closer to the stadium.
The debacle has drawn criticism of the safety of the game in which Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 to claim their 14th European title. Liverpool Police, present in supporting roles, described the situation outside the gates as “shocking.” During the game, the club, its fans and a European fan group called for investigations. And in the days since, British government officials have demanded answers from their French counterparts and European football’s governing body UEFA to treat thousands of Liverpool fans.
Fans faced several problems, including dangerous crowding after being cooped up in a confined space, and the final was delayed by more than 30 minutes when French riot police used tear gas and pepper spray on fans after they appeared to be in control lost the situation. At the same time, hundreds of young people from the area tried to enter the stadium either through the turnstiles or over security fences. Officials estimate that up to 4,000 people could have passed without a ticket.
Part of the explanation for why Liverpool fans were trapped in such close quarters has now related to transport issues on match day, including a strike by workers that affected one of the main rail links to the stadium.
UEFA and local officials have compared travel data from Saturday’s game with figures from the French Cup final, which took place at the Stade de France on 7 May. They found that one of the stations closest to the Stade de France used four times as many fans through gates on Saturday than the station had used during the French Cup final. That, they believe, has contributed to the dangerous shortage of followers.
It can take months to get a full picture of what happened at the stadium. On Tuesday, shaken by the chaotic scenes at last year’s European Championship final in London as well as the recent Europa League final in Seville, Spain, UEFA appointed former Portuguese Education Minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues to lead an independent inquiry into the failures surrounding the Champions League final.
However, claims by French government officials continue to infuriate Liverpool and their ownership. The club’s chairman, Tom Werner, said so in a scathing letter to Oudéa-Castéra, France’s sports minister.
He wrote, he said, “in utter disbelief that a minister in the French government, a position of enormous responsibility and influence, could make a series of unsubstantiated statements on a matter of such importance before a proper, formal, independent investigative process has taken place.” even happened.”
He condemned the “loose data and unverified claims” presented to reporters Monday before an investigation had taken place.
“The fact that your public position has violated that objective is worrying in itself,” he added. “That you have done so without any recourse to us or our supporters is even greater. All votes should count in this process, equally and fairly.”
Werner not only attacked Oudéa-Castéra for her claims, but also demanded a public apology. By late Tuesday, Oudéa-Castera’s tone – if not her claims about fake tickets – had changed.
“The issue of fake tickets doesn’t change that: Liverpool are one of the greatest clubs of all time,” she wrote on Twitter. “And on Saturday there were fans with valid tickets who had a horrible evening or weren’t able to see the game. We’re sorry.”
Liverpool continue to be inundated with video evidence taken on mobile phones by their supporters. The images, many of which have also been uploaded to social media, are sometimes harrowing and show children and older fans dealing with the effects of tear gas – sometimes indiscriminately – by the riot police.
Real Madrid fans faced similar problems on their side of the stadium. Since the final, several fans have come forward to say they have been attacked or robbed on their way in and out of the stadium.
Amando Sánchez, 51, who traveled to Paris in a group of 14, mostly family members, said his 87-year-old father and an older brother missed the game due to the chaos at the front gates. Another brother, Sánchez said, fended off an attempt to steal his ticket as he prepared to present it at a turnstile at the stadium.
“Really no one was responsible,” Sánchez said in an interview on Wednesday.