French Senate report will shed light on chaos in Champions League final
The findings of a French Senate inquiry into the crowd chaos at this year’s Champions League final in Paris are set to be published on Wednesday, threatening further embarrassment to police and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin .
A fact-finding mission led by two senators has heard from witnesses since the May 28 Liverpool-Real Madrid match which was marred by a delayed kick-off, run-ins, tear gas and street crime.
The investigation has already concluded that the problems were mainly caused by a lack of preparation by the French authorities, who offered to host the biggest game in European football after it was withdrawn from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow.
The final report is almost certain to contradict Darmanin’s repeated statements that Liverpool fans were mainly to blame, with the minister saying up to 40,000 of them turned up at the stadium with fake tickets or without them.
“Our work has already revealed a certain number of dysfunctions”, declared on June 21 the senator François-Noël Buffet, co-president of the investigation, during one of the last hearings.
“Contrary to what has been said, including here by the Home Secretary, England fans were not behind the incidents. Let’s be clear and blunt: everyone recognizes that they did evidence of great self-control in the face of what one might call chaos”. ,” he added.
Many Liverpool fans struggled to get to the stadium due to a transport strike, then found themselves in traffic jams and crushes at the stadium’s entrance gates, where police fired tear gas to push them back.
Disabled Liverpool fans testified before the Senate committee that officers had even sprayed people in wheelchairs.
After the match, fans on both sides fell prey to local gangs as they made their way to local transport links, with many reporting pickpocketing, muggings and threats in full view of police .
The televised events were a national embarrassment and would have influenced the June legislative election when President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority and the anti-immigration National Rally party made unprecedented gains.
Darmanin survived a government reshuffle in May and has since been given additional responsibilities as home secretary despite his widely disputed claims, which have sparked fury in Liverpool and tension with the UK government.
Authorities have also been under pressure to explain why stadium security camera footage was not recorded, removing a potentially vital source of information for investigators as they try to piece together the events.
“Should things have been handled better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly to blame? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio in late June in his first apologies.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement is also expected to face heavy criticism after acknowledging during a June 9 hearing that security operations had been a “failure”.
But the famous hardliner defended the use of tear gas to keep supporters away from the stadium, saying there was “no other way”.
France is due to host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024. The Senate report is also expected to make a series of recommendations to improve coordination of major sporting events between organisers, local authorities and police .