UEFA to refund Liverpool fans for Paris Champions League final fiasco
UEFA said Tuesday it will reimburse all Liverpool supporters who attended last year's chaos-hit Champions League final against Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris.
European football's governing body, which was heavily criticised in an independent report published last month for organisational failures which "almost led to disaster", said its refund scheme would cover the entire Liverpool allocation of nearly 20,000.
It will also cover supporters of Real and other spectators affected by the trouble outside the stadium.
"Refunds will be available to all fans... where the most difficult circumstances were reported," UEFA said, adding that all ticket-holders who did not enter the stadium by the originally scheduled kick-off time, or could not get in at all, would also receive a refund.
"Given these criteria, the special refund scheme covers all of the Liverpool FC ticket allocation for the final, i.e. 19,618 tickets."
Real's 1-0 win on May 28 was overshadowed by the fiasco outside, with the kick-off delayed by 37 minutes as fans struggled to get into France's national stadium after police funnelled them into overcrowded bottlenecks as they approached.
Police then fired tear gas towards thousands of supporters locked behind metal fences on the perimeter to the stadium.
UEFA tried to pin the blame on Liverpool fans arriving late despite thousands having been held for hours outside the stadium before kick-off.
- Legal action to continue -
A Liverpool fans' group, Spirit of Shankly, later said fans were left "fearing for their life" in a "maelstrom of chaos and alarm".
The Spirit of Shankly and the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association hailed the decision to reimburse supporters but said it did not go far enough.
A joint statement said the announcement "does not excuse UEFA, exempt them from criticism or lessen the need for them to implement all of the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry".
Lawyers for hundreds of Liverpool fans said they would continue to pursue legal action against UEFA.
"UEFA did not just ruin the biggest event in the football season, people were injured and traumatised and any compensation needs to reflect that," said Clare Campbell and Jill Paterson, partners at law firm Leigh Day, which is representing more than 800 Liverpool fans.
"We will be pushing ahead with our legal claim to seek appropriate compensation for our clients."
The French authorities claimed an "industrial scale fraud" of fake tickets was the problem.
A French Senate enquiry in July found that poorly-executed security arrangements were the cause of the mayhem.
The independent report said that "UEFA, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster".
"We have taken into account a huge number of views expressed both publicly and privately and we believe we have devised a scheme that is comprehensive and fair," said UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis.
"We recognise the negative experiences of those supporters on the day and with this scheme we will refund fans who had bought tickets and who were the most affected by the difficulties in accessing the stadium."
In a brief statement, the English club said: "This is a UEFA refund policy, not a Liverpool FC policy.
"The club's role, as a ticket agent for this match, will be to administer the refunds to qualifying supporters that bought match tickets via LFC, as directed by UEFA."
Images of the final tarnished France's reputation for holding major sports events ahead of the Rugby World Cup this year and the 2024 Olympic Games. The final of the former will be played at the Stade de France, which will also host the Olympic athletics events.
This year's Champions League final is due to be played in Istanbul on June 10.