Eight months after a chaotic, potentially deadly 2022 Champions League final in Paris, a review by a UEFA independent panel blamed their own organisational failures and French authorities for endangering lives of fans who only wanted to go to a football match.
After UEFA and the French authorities originally attempted to frame the events as being caused by late and ticketless fans—claims the panel rejected entirely—it serves as further vindication for those who were caught up in the chaos through no fault of their own.
“It correctly found that there was no blame for our supporters,” Liverpool chief executive officer Billy Hogan said of the report. “I guess with that [there is] maybe a sense of relief [and] a sense of pride in terms of our supporters and the behaviour of our supporters.
“I think if you read the report, it’s mentioned a number of times in terms of being called a near miss. And frankly, I think the history that we have as a club going back to Hillsborough really made people behave in the face of what was incredibly heavy-handed policing.
“I was in those crowds and I saw the behaviour of our supporters. That’s the reason why it was a near miss and why it wasn’t an actual disaster. And finally, from our perspective, this is sort of the end of the beginning of this process. This is not the end of the process.”
In many ways, how fans are handled has improved since the events of Hillsborough in the 1980s, yet as the report made clear, it may only have been the death and trauma suffered by Liverpool supporters on that day that prevented another disaster three decades later.
The Champions League final may not have been a disaster, but French authorities and European football’s governing body get no credit for that and if they fail to acknowledge the degree to which their actions endangered the lives of fans they risk disaster in the future.
“This is where the hard work really needs to start,” Hogan added. “Now we need to look at how we make sure that nothing like this happens again. As a final, this was always going to be a focal point, and that’s okay to focus on the final but it shouldn’t just be about finals.
“This is about all matches that take place and the behaviour of police. The operational delivery of these events needs to be looked at in the case-by-case basis to ensure that safety and fan safety, supporter safety, is at the heart of all of the operational planning.
“It can’t just be a focus on finals, it has to be a focus on all the matches we conduct across Europe and that’s UEFA’s role and responsibility to deliver. So, from our perspective we want to now see UEFA take these recommendations and put them into practice.”