UEFA blamed for near-disaster at Champions League final

UEFA-appointed investigators have held European soccer's ruling body mostly responsible for chaotic security failures at the Champions League final in Paris last May

Graham Dunbar
Monday 13 February 2023 20:18 GMT

UEFA-appointed investigators have held European soccer's ruling body mostly responsible for chaotic security failures at the 2022 Champions League final in Paris that put the lives of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans at risk.

“It is remarkable that no one lost their life,” the investigation panel wrote in a 220-page document published Monday into a near “mass fatality catastrophe" at the biggest club game in world soccer.

“The panel has concluded that UEFA, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster,” the report said.

A failed security operation saw tens of thousands of fans held in increasingly crushed queues for hours before the May 28 game at the 75,000-capacity Stade de France, which is a key venue for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Many fans were fired on with tear gas by police before the game, which was delayed by nearly 40 minutes. After Madrid’s 1-0 win, dozens were robbed leaving the stadium by local residents in the impoverished Saint-Denis neighborhood.

UEFA statements during the chaos and after the game blamed Liverpool fans for arriving at the stadium late and using fake tickets to try to gain entry — wrongly blamed on both counts, the report said.

An apology to Liverpool supporters for “the experiences of many of them” and the unjust blaming of them was made Monday by UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis.

The panel, appointed seven months ago by UEFA, aimed blame Monday at leadership of both the soccer body and its subsidiary UEFA Events, and French public authorities.

“UEFA’s lack of oversight upon delegation of private safety and security matters, deference of all such matters in the public space to policing authorities, and simply not following its own safety, security and service requirements, was a recipe for the failures which occurred,” the report said.

“Senior officials at the top of UEFA allowed this to happen, even though the shortcomings of its model were widely known at senior management level.”

French police were blamed in the report for wrongly assuming that Liverpool fans posed a threat to public order.

The report team was chaired by a former sports minister of Portugal, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, and included match security experts who formerly worked for UEFA and fan groups.

They criticized French public officials for an ongoing “misconception about what actually happened and a complacency regarding what needs to change.”

“This is particularly acute given the proximity of the (2023) Rugby World Cup and Olympic and Paralympic Games and the importance of the Stade de France to both events,” the report said.

The Champions League final was moved to Paris at three months' notice after UEFA stripped Russia of hosting the game in St. Petersburg because of the military invasion of Ukraine.


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