PARIS, France — French authorities defended police on Monday for indiscriminately firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters at the Champions League final, while blaming industrial levels of fraud that saw 30,000 to 40,000 people try to enter the Stade de France with fake tickets or none at all.
After a meeting into Saturday’s chaos, the ministers of the sport and the interior shifted responsibility onto the Liverpool fans while not providing details on how they were sure so many fake tickets were in circulation. People with legitimate tickets bought through Liverpool and UEFA reported struggling to access the stadium.
“There was massive fraud at an industrial level and an organization of fake tickets because of the pre-filtering by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation, 70% of the tickets were fake tickets coming into the Stade de France,” Interior minister Gérald Darmanin said. "Fifteen percent of fake tickets also were after the first filtering ... more than 2,600 tickets were confirmed by UEFA as non-validated tickets even though they’d gone through the first filtering.
“A massive presence of these fake tickets of course was the issue why there were delays, three times the beginning of the match was delayed.”
UEFA launched an independent investigation into what caused the chaotic scenes and said the "comprehensive review will examine decision making, responsibility and behaviors of all entities involved in the final.”
The final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, kicked off 37 minutes late. Tear gas and pepper spray was targeted at Liverpool fans, impacting children — a tactic defended by Darmanin to prevent deaths.
“I’d like to thank the forces of law and order, also those who worked in the stadium because they were very calm and they were able to avoid drama and so thank you for organizing the pre-filtering but lifting it when there was too much pressure to avoid a drama," Darmanin said. “That was a decision made by the prefecture to avoid any kind of deaths or seriously injured."
French Sports minister Amélie Ouéda-Castéra blamed fans arriving at the stadium late for the crowd control issues, but did not say when they should have arrived at the stadium on the outskirts of Paris.
“We have seen, we have to improve in risky matches certain aspects with regard to managing the flows, first filtering, second filtering, and we have to make sure we look at electronic ticketing as closely as possible so we can avoid fraud as far as ticketing is concerned,” Ouéda-Castéra said. “That is something which is absolutely essential.”
There was no apology for the conduct by authorities.
“We are extremely sorry for all the people whose experience was wasted all that evening," Ouéda-Castéra said. "For the people who had bought tickets and were unable to attend the match. That’s why we have asked UEFA to really work on a compensation system for those people — 2,700, including British people — so that they get compensation.”
UEFA did not raise the issue of compensating fans in its statement about its own investigation.
“Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed,” UEFA said, without giving a timeline.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report