French minister offers mea culpa, and apology, for Champions League Final fan chaos

·3-min read
French minister offers mea culpa, and apology, for Champions League Final fan chaos

France's new interior minister offered a mea culpa on Wednesday for the disastrous organisation of the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.

Speaking before the Senate's law commission, Gérald Darmanin paved the way for reparations for fans and sanctions against police officers, while maintaining his controversial story about the number of fake tickets.

"It is obvious that things could have been better organised," said the minister, who appeared alongside sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, deploring a "spoilt sports festival" and "sometimes unacceptable excesses".

He also "sincerely apologised" to Liverpool fans for "the great damage, particularly to children" caused by tear gas.

For the first time since Saturday, Gérald Darmanin said he had "requested sanctions from the police prefect" for two members of the police force, who he said were guilty of using tear gas "contrary to the rules of use".

But the minister, who has been blaming Liverpool fans since the start of the controversy, believing them to be largely responsible for the incidents, again claimed that 110,000 people turned up at the Stade de France. He said that 35,000 more fans than the planned capacity had turned up with forged tickets, or without tickets altogether.

"The images show that a large number of British supporters returned during the first half and then during the second half, notably via the RER D train," Mr Darmanin said.

"Several tickets were duplicated hundreds of times," he also said.

Rob Harris/The Associated Press
A real, left, and a fake ticket for the Champions League final are displayed at a press conference in Paris Monday, May 30, 2022 - Rob Harris/The Associated Press

Complaints in England and Spain

In France and England, controversy continues over the policing of Europe's biggest match of the season, won by Real Madrid (1-0) against Liverpool.

The English club's chief executive Billy Hogan said the platform set up to collect accounts of what happened in Paris from Liverpool fans had received five thousand responses in just 24 hours. testimonies from Reds fans set up on Monday had already received 5,000 responses in 24 hours.

Hogan said what he read "horrified" him: "Men, women and children, able-bodied people and others less so, were treated indiscriminately during the course of Saturday," he said.

Fans from England and Spain, a number of whom were also attacked or robbed after the match, will now be able to lodge a complaint in their own country, with interior minister Darmanin saying French police officers would be sent to help with the process.

The minister also announced that he asked sports officials to consider a new approach to crowd control at large sporting events, instead of resorting to spraying tear gas.

Christophe Ena/The Associated Press
Police officers guard the Stade de France prior the Champions League final soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, May 28, 2022. - Christophe Ena/The Associated Press

Stadium chaos takes a political turn in France

In the run-up to French parliamentary elections on 12 and 19 June, Saturday's problems at the Champions League Final have taken on a political tone, particularly with regards to the country's ability to organise major sporting events a year before the Rugby World Cup in 2023, and two years before the Olympic Games in Paris.

Right-wing politician Marine le Pen said interior minister Gérald Darmanin had told a "grave lie" about the number of fans that turned up without tickets, and said he should consider resigning.

Meanwhile left-wing MEP Manuel Bompard, a close ally of Jean-Luc Mélenchon said "A minister who lies, it's bad news and not a good omen for the coming five-year period."

Through a spokesperson, French President Emmanuel Macron said the interior minister retains his "full confidence."

The French Football Federation has defended the reinforced measures put in place around the stadium, and estimate that 2,800 fake tickets were scanned on Saturday.

France's intelligence services had alerted authorities on 25 May that "about 50,000 English supporters" without tickets were likely to show up at the stadium in Paris.

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