Last night, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner sent a letter to French Sport Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, asking her to apologize for her comments on the alleged causes of a 37-minute delay in the start of the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday night.
Earlier on Monday, Oudea-Castera and French Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin held a press conference where they accused “British fans” of being late to the Stade de France despite the tremendous photo and video evidence to the contrary. The pair also accused “counterfeit tickets” and claimed there were as many as 40,000 circulating around the northern outskirts of Paris, near the site.
Here, the athlete investigates each of these claims, which disagree with the conclusions of Matthieu Valet, a spokesman for the Independent Union of Police Commissioners in France, who believes local youths were responsible for the disorder…
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin: “At 21:00 (Paris time, 20:00 UK) when the game was due to start, 97 per cent of the Spanish fans were in attendance, with only 50 per cent of the UK fans having gone to their section, showing the difficulties , which resulted from the entrance only, related to the Liverpool supporters and not to the other entrances.
Can this be stacked?
While the numbers may be true, the respective access points assigned to the two clubs made it easier for Real Madrid fans to access the stadium. However, this ignores the reality that Madrid fans have faced their own security issues, as their supporters have been telling Spanish media of their anger at the grim policing, stolen tickets and violent attacks on the way to the game and on the way out.
Before kick-off, Madrid fans came from the north, from their fan park in the Parc de la Legion d’Honneur just 1.5km away, and passed through a ticket checkpoint where there was plenty of space and enough stewards and police to deal with Any approach, the geography at the other end of the field of where Liverpool supporters should be at kick-off, presented major challenges.
Far more than just the 20,000 fans for the Liverpool area of the stadium traveled from central Paris, as many thousands of fans with tickets in the neutral parts of the stadium, as well as some Real fans using their non-visited fan zone and journalists the same RER line and the same metro station. From this station there was only one route to “Stade”, which was supposed to take 17 minutes, but took up to three hours for many.
From the tube, Liverpool fans, Real Madrid fans and “neutrals” were directed to a narrow passageway at the side of a dual carriageway, where police cars choked up much of the space.
The traffic jam had already reached an uncomfortable level three hours before kick-off. the athlete Writers James Pearce and Oliver Kay traveled separately to the game but had exactly the same experiences. Concerned about the pressure from the crowd, both managed to climb over a barrier before approaching the Stade de France.
After walking around the stadium to reach the accreditation center, it became clear that Madrid fans didn’t face the same geographical problems. the athlete‘s Caoimhe O’Neill, who approached the stadium from the Madrid side because her ticket was in a neutral zone, suffered two ticket checks, one by police and one by stewards.
Ultimately, the French authorities do not seem to have recognized that very different arrangements were made at the two ends of the stadium.
They might have had reason to make different regulations for the respective fan communities. But if that was the case, that should be made clear.
Darmanin: “There was massive industrial-level fraud and the organization of fake tickets because pre-filtering by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation showed that 70 percent of the tickets were fake.”
Can this be stacked?
This is mathematically impossible, because then there would be more than 40,000 counterfeit tickets in circulation. So authorities know that over a three-hour period, even the lower end of that estimate would require 167 people per minute trying to break in illegally. That’s about three a second.
There were no doubt some fake tickets in circulation, but the numbers the French government are talking about don’t seem remotely credible.
Dan Nicolson, who has organized major events for Liverpool’s fanbase, says the claim is absurd: “Moving tens of thousands of units of anything in just three weeks is extraordinary business. If you do that offline without retail stores, you need a network of at least 500 willing people, each buying an average of 80 tickets.”
If a fake ticketing process were launched online instead, Nicolson believes scammers would need a fulfillment service that could rival some of Europe’s largest e-commerce companies while avoiding the attention of authorities over a three-week period. “It’s not happening,” he said.
Darmanin: “After going through the pre-filtering phase, 15 percent of the tickets were fake, more than 2,600 tickets were not validated tickets despite having passed the first filter.”
Can this be stacked?
The French interior minister would have had this information if the security operation had not collapsed two hours before kick-off when stewards gave up checking tickets in many areas.
At the first ticket checkpoint at the Liverpool end, thousands were let through without ticket checks an hour and 20 minutes before kick-off as authorities lost control of their own operations – apparently in a bid to relieve pressure from the huge queues that have been rising over the past three hours had developed.
I was there when this happened and my ticket wasn’t validated until I reached the first gate. I’ve since been told by other fans that the scanning devices used to validate cellphone tickets at the failed checkpoint stopped working and this meant authorities were unable to efficiently regulate who entered, which contributed to the subsequent delays at the gates.
The numbers here suggest that a large number of people were turned away at the pre-filter stage.
Our Oliver Kay waited at a checkpoint for almost an hour when the tickets were checked and he didn’t see a single person being turned away. A friend says he was held there for two hours and only saw about 10 people with fake tickets turned away.
His colleague James Pearce, meanwhile, has friends who were in possession of real tickets only to be told they were fake. They wouldn’t scan after three or four tries.
Darmanin: “The massive presence of these fake tickets was the problem causing delays. There were 29 arrests at the Stade de France and more than half of those arrests were British supporters for invading the Stade de France.”
Can this be stacked?
Various figures have emerged since Saturday evening. The French media reported at the time that there had been 105 arrests. Now they suggest there were 29 inside the stadium and that “more than half” of those arrested were British.
So far, it has not explained why these individuals were arrested.
The background to the non-British arrests was also not disclosed. Video footage widely shared on social media shows that there were locals who came to the stadium without tickets. There have also been numerous reports of fans of both clubs being attacked by gangs believed to be from the Stade de France area.
Two flare-ups witnessed by Oliver Kay off the pitch both affected locals rather than fans of either club.
Valet, spokesman for the Independent Union of Police Commissioners in France, spoke of “professional thugs, mostly minors” who “wanted to break into the stadium and make life difficult for the police”. Fans standing at the turnstiles have said something similar. But the French government glossed over that.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera: “The most important key point is to really understand exactly what happened during this massive ticketing scam. There are witnesses to this and figures show 30,000 to 40,000 without or with forged tickets. The fake tickets looked incredible like regular tickets, which meant some controls didn’t notice.”
Can this be stacked?
Of course, it’s important to understand what happened. And that applies not only to Oudea-Castera’s claims of “massive fraud,” but also to the lack of security that was undoubtedly a very significant factor in the chaos.
UEFA announced late Monday evening that an “independent report” by Dr. Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a Portuguese MP. A UEFA statement suggested that evidence “is being collected from all relevant parties”.
To do this comprehensively, surely this must include consulting with the thousands upon thousands of fans and media who were held up at the first “pre-filtering point” where many problems began.
(Other contributors: James Pearce, Oliver Kay, Caoimhe O’Neill)
(Top Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)