Voices: Sorry Uefa, lies about Liverpool fans won’t wash this time

·5-min read
A few decades ago, some vague compensation for football fans was that while they were treated as third-class citizens, at least they only paid third-class prices (AP)
A few decades ago, some vague compensation for football fans was that while they were treated as third-class citizens, at least they only paid third-class prices (AP)

The last time the police and the government joined forces and contrived to blame Liverpool FC for their own malfeasance, it took fully 33 years of near-constant toil for the truth finally to be revealed.

So it is at least a mark of human progress that the entirely malign efforts of Uefa, the French police and the French interior ministry are being called out in real time for the very obvious bulls*** they are.

There are now plenty of more detailed investigations into what went on outside the Stade de France outside Paris on Saturday night to be found online, filling in the gaps between the viral videos of little children being teargassed while standing behind a fence and minding their own business, as they had been for more than three hours. They make matters worse for the authorities, not better.

Before the Champions League final had even concluded, Uefa had put out a statement blaming the trouble on the turnstiles having “become blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets”.

The trouble is that, having issued this statement before the match had finished, it was put by journalists to players who had played in the match, including Liverpool’s Andy Robertson. He had personally given one of his own ticket allocations to a friend, who didn’t get into the match having been told his ticket was fake. “I can assure you it wasn’t,” said Robertson.

Still, the French authorities had almost two full days to dwell on this fact. To consider whether Scotland captain Andy Robertson, who earns just over £5m a year, is likely to also be knocking out moody football tickets to his own mates (for the bargain basement price of absolutely no money at all).

But dwell on it they did and by Monday lunchtime, the number of fake tickets involved had risen to “30,000 or 40,000”. This was the number, according to French interior minister Gerard Darmanin, of those who had sought to gain access either with fake tickets or no tickets. He has promised to investigate the “massive fraud” to which we can only say, Monsieur Darmanin, investigate yourself.

We have also heard French police’s mea culpa, that they weren’t ready for “British fans”, a sentiment that came out in perfect synchronicity with Real Madrid fans also talking of how they were teargassed by police and robbed by locals, of how the roads away from the stadium were full of gangs, hiding in bushes and armed with knives ready to mug, and indeed slash with knives anyone who inadvertently strayed to within striking distance of them.

French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, while repeating the absurd number about the 40,000 ticketless supporters who arrived with no ticket then mysteriously vanished again, has instead congratulated herself on a job well done.

“The match was played, there was a winner, there were no seriously injured people and there was no violence between supporters,” she said, during a press conference held after a meeting to work out why everything had gone so badly wrong, and at which she had evidently concluded that nothing did.

This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the most egregious observation made, however. Given France is about to host the Rugby World Cup, and the Olympics at the Stade de France, a giant stadium slap bang in the most notoriously deprived district in Paris, Monsieur Darmanin was asked whether he could be sure such woeful goings couldn’t occur again.

Said investigation could even begin with Darmanin’s very next words, where he assured those present that these woeful scenes couldn’t possibly be repeated.

"Comparisons with the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup seem rather disproportionate to me, knowing that it’s patently only in football with certain English clubs that these events happen," he said. When your own police officers have teargassed children, this is quite a statement to make, especially when you consider its clear slander against 97 dead football fans.

He is also, as point of fact, quite wrong. Also this weekend, St Etienne players were chased down the tunnel by their own fans. Earlier this season, a match between Lyon and Marseilles was abandoned after a player was hit with a bottle.

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Even while they were saying these words, the famous French sporting newspaper, L’Equipe, was telling Uefa to just “admit it” – to take responsibility for their own failure.

Politically speaking, Darmanin will probably get away with his very public act of self disgrace. It’s only the English after all. But it will be curious to see how far their lie can carry itself, and what the consequences will be when it crumbles. The notion that 70 per cent of fans had “fake” tickets is as absurd as the idea that Andy Robertson would be passing one on to his friend.

A few decades ago, some vague compensation for football fans was that while they were treated as third-class citizens, at least they only paid third-class prices. The men and women, boy and girls, kettled in an underpass for three hours while French authorities couldn’t work out what to do beyond coming up with lies about it, are all several thousand pounds down. They know they won’t be getting any compensation, they won’t even waste their time asking.

But the wait for power to start having to speak the truth will at least be a lot shorter this time. They won’t get away with it.

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