Any joy Liverpool fans had at once again making it to the Champions League final last May was quickly extinguished hours before Real Madrid would go onto win the game. Reports and video footage of chaos and dangerously mis-managed crowds of ticket holders began flooding social media.
Images of riot police teargassing Liverpool fans, including children, outside of the Stade de France painted a horrific picture of catastrophic organizational failure.
In the wake of that day, questions were asked about who, exactly, was responsible for things careening so far off path. There were rumours flying that hundreds of Liverpool fans were trying to fight their way into the stadium. Liverpool fans, to put it mildly, do not have a good history with being made the scapegoats for systematic incompetence leading to disaster.
Once the dust had settled UEFA hired an independent panel to investigate the situation, and the results of the investigation have been released.
According to the document, it is UEFA who is ‘primarily responsible’ for the way that the situation degraded so quickly. It also refutes the claims of French police and UEFA that it was ticketless Liverpudlian thugs who were trying to get into the game, calling these lies a baseless and reprehensible attempt to deflect blame.
“The panel concludes that assertions regarding huge numbers of ticketless supporters, and those with fake tickets, have been wrongly inflated and have been stated as fact, to deflect responsibility for the planning and operational failures of stakeholders. This is reprehensible and has involved Uefa, Uefa Events SA [Uefa’s events organising arm], FFF, the Préfecture de Police, government officials and French ministers,” the report states.
In fact, the document praises the Liverpool fans and credit them for minimizing the what could have been a massive tragedy.
“With no police to protect anyone from sporadic criminality, it appears from video footage and eyewitness accounts, that Liverpool supporters on this part of the concourse spontaneously formed orderly queues, regularly admonished those seeking to circumvent these and collectively organised to protect the vulnerable. Indeed, the Panel concurs with Scraton et al (2022) that the capacity of the Liverpool supporters to self-organise within this context was a primary factor in preventing harm and ensuring our inquiry is investigating a ‘near miss’ rather than a stadium tragedy involving fatalities.”
The Paris police were also found responsible because of poorly planned access routes to the stadium that lead to heavy crowds, the use of excessive weapons, and not working together with the people responsible for running the event. The French Football Association was also criticized for their lack of planning and inadequate safety measures.
The report makes it clear that this was a very near miss, and with a bit more bad luck and less control from the Liverpool fans in attendance, could have turned into a true disaster.
“The dangerous conditions on the concourse outside the turnstiles were compounded by the police deploying teargas at disorderly groups of locals, as well as using pepper spray on supporters trying to gain entrance with valid tickets,” the report states. “It is remarkable that no one lost their life. All the stakeholders interviewed by the panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe.”