France blames ticket fraud for chaos in Champions League final

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France blames ticket fraud for chaos in Champions League final

PARIS (AP) – French authorities on Monday defended police for indiscriminately firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters at the Champions League final, blaming the industrial fraud that saw 30,000 to 40,000 people attempting to evict the Stade de France with fake tickets or none at all.

UEFA has commissioned and published an independent report to “examine the decision-making, responsibility and behavior of all those involved in the final”.

After a meeting in chaos on Saturday, France’s sport and home ministers passed the blame on to Liverpool fans without giving details on how they were sure there were so many fake tickets in circulation. People with legitimate tickets bought through Liverpool and UEFA reported having difficulties entering the stadium.

“There was massive fraud at an industrial level and an organization of fake tickets due to pre-filtering by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation, 70% of the tickets were fake tickets that came into the Stade de France,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said. “Fifteen percent of counterfeit tickets were still after the first filter… more than 2,600 tickets were confirmed by UEFA as non-validated tickets despite having passed the first filter.

The French sport ministry provided no evidence to support its claims and did not respond to a follow-up email after hosting a combative press conference.

“A massive presence of these fake tickets was of course the problem as to why there were delays,” Darmanin said. “Three times the start of the game was postponed.”

The final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, kicked off 37 minutes late.

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said it was “completely inappropriate” for French authorities to draw conclusions and comment on figures so early.

“At this stage, I think it’s just not responsible to comment before we’ve actually gathered all the information,” Hogan said. “How can (the number of fans without tickets) be quantified at this stage before we have conducted an independent and transparent investigation? There were also quotes about people with fake tickets. But again, how do we know all the facts until we do an investigation?”

Hogan said Liverpool were exploring “legal avenues” on behalf of supporters.

“The final of the Champions League was supposed to be one of the most beautiful spectacles in football and led to one of the worst experiences in the lives of many fans. So I would say that all politicians and authorities involved in this event must wait until a full and independent investigation has been completed before trying to shift blame.”

Tear gas and pepper spray were directed at Liverpool fans and affected children – a tactic defended by Darmanin to prevent deaths.

“I would like to thank the law enforcement officers, including those who worked at the stadium because they were very calm and were able to avoid drama, and thank you for organizing the pre-filtering but also lifting a lot of pressure to avoid drama,” said Darmanin. “It was a prefectural decision to avoid death or serious injury.”

French Sport Minister Amélie Ouéda-Castéra blamed the crowd problems on fans arriving late at the stadium, but did not say when they should have arrived at the stadium on the outskirts of Paris.

“We have seen that in risky games we have to improve certain aspects in terms of flow management, first filtering, second filtering and we have to make sure that we look as closely as possible at electronic ticketing so that we do not cheat as far as possible avoid ticketing concerns,” said Ouéda-Castéra. “This is something that is absolutely necessary.”

Ouéda-Castera said fans who couldn’t come to the stadium should be compensated but ignored questions as she exited the press conference where Ouéda-Castera was standing.

“We are very sorry for all the people whose experience was wasted all evening,” said Ouéda-Castéra. “For the people who bought tickets and couldn’t attend the game. That’s why we asked UEFA to really work on a compensation system for these people – 2,700 including Brits – so that they get compensation.”

UEFA did not address the issue of compensating fans in its statement on its own investigation.

“Evidence will be collected from all relevant parties and the results of the independent report will be made public once it is ready,” UEFA said, without giving a timeline.

French authorities will set up a working group to prevent violence at stadiums and target troublemakers after witnessing a spate of incidents at domestic matches this season.

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AP sportswriter Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report

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