The Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, this Monday.

The French Government has attributed this Monday the incidents that delayed the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, on Saturday, to a “massive, organized and industrial fraud” of false entry tickets, and has indicated that the fraud is originated in England. Paris maintains that it was the arrival at the Stade de France of tens of thousands of Liverpool fans with false tickets or without a ticket that triggered the chaos in the vicinity of the stadium and the scenes of violence, which have tarnished the image of France two years of the Olympic Games in Paris.

The British government and Liverpool supporters have asked UEFA and the French authorities for explanations. “The images and testimonials from Liverpool fans and the media present at the entrance to the Stade de France are extremely worrying,” Nadine Dorries, the British minister for sport and culture, said on Monday. “I demand that UEFA launch an investigation to find out what went wrong and why, in coordination with stadium staff, the French police, the French Football Federation, the Merseyside police [encargada de la seguridad en Liverpool] and Liverpool F.C.” Meanwhile, the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, congratulated the French security forces for “avoiding deaths”.

The Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, this Monday.
The Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, this Monday.Jean Francois Badias (AP)

“The massive presence of these counterfeit bills is the evil that is at the root of the postponement of the start of the match,” Darmanin assured at a press conference with his Sports counterpart, Amélie Oudéa-Castera. Both ministers appeared after a two-hour meeting with UEFA representatives in which, according to the minister, “there was no divergence in interpretation.” The French government maintains that on the day of the final between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans showed up at the stadium without tickets or with counterfeit tickets. To these were added 22,000 English fans and 22,000 Real Madrid fans with legal tickets. The fraud, according to Darmanin, comes “from the other shore of the Channel.” That is to say, from England. For this reason, UEFA has commissioned an independent report on the events surrounding the Champions League final. “The exhaustive review will examine the decision-making, responsibility and behavior of all the entities involved in the final,” the international organization resolved.

Counterfeit bills were the first piece of the domino that knocked down the following, according to Darmanin’s account. He caused the crowds at the various ticket control barriers before reaching the stadium. The situation was aggravated by the strike on one of the suburban lines that leads to the Saint-Denis stadium: all the fans were concentrated on a single access road. Darmanin explained that, in order to alleviate the crowding at the controls prior to the stadium, it was decided to lift these controls. But then dozens of young people from the neighborhood took the opportunity to sneak in and tried to jump the fences of the stadium. The police used tear gas to disperse them. The French minister referred in the press conference to the attacks, before and after the game, perpetrated by young people against the fans. There were 77 detainees. “We had prepared a lot for hooliganism,” said Darmanin. “But we were less prepared for a crime that took advantage of the chaos in the previous controls.”

Images of Liverpool fans pepper-sprayed by French police, crying children and dozens of people squashed against stadium fences have been constantly repeated by the British media. The outrage at the way in which the security of the event was managed has caused the conservative government of Boris Johnson and the Labor opposition to coincide in demanding explanations from UEFA. British Minister Dorries said: “It is in the interest of all those involved that we understand what happened and draw the necessary lessons from everything that happened.” The French government has asked the Saint-Denis prosecutor’s office and UEFA to investigate the alleged ticket fraud. It has also committed to improving crowd control systems ahead of future sporting events such as the 2024 Games and the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Beyond the exaggerated and pharisaical headlines of some British tabloids, always ready to feed discord against France, most Britons are well aware of the less than exemplary behavior that their hooligans. In July last year, the European Championship final at London’s Wembley stadium ended in serious clashes between the police and the hundreds of fans who jumped the entrance barriers to watch the final between the England and Italy teams. During the 1980s, popular football fans declined markedly due to the unfortunate shows that took place every weekend.

On this occasion, however, there has been a quick consensus to blame Liverpool supporters. The scenes of chaos have brought to the memory of many Britons the Hillsborough tragedy of April 1989 and the human avalanche at the entrance of that stadium that caused almost 100 deaths. It also occurs at a particularly delicate moment between the United Kingdom and France, which have been in a state of permanent tension – due to fishing, border control, irregular immigrants and even vaccines – since Brexit became a reality.

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