Monday, May 29, 2023

Concerns over police aggression towards Champions League fans

PARIS ( Associated Press) – Tear gas shells were fired indiscriminately around children and the elderly. Pepper spray was dispersed at close range on the disappointed fans. Ticket holders blamed the delay for kickoff when they spent hours trying to enter the stadium in tight spaces with barriers.

Liverpool supporters are defending themselves against accusations leveled by French authorities for the unrest in the Champions League final amid overcrowding outside the Stade de France due to operational failures on Saturday.

The British government called the fans’ behavior “deeply concerning”.

UEFA officials spent hours after Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in talks about the chaotic scenes that delayed the start of the final by 37 minutes in the biggest club match of the year.

As the final began, riot police were firing tear gas shells outside the stadium doors to disperse any lingering people around Gate U.

French ministers for the interior and sport blamed ticketless Liverpool fans for trying to make their way into the stadium, in contrast to the scenes seen by journalists of people who appeared to be local youths climbing fences . “Get down,” Liverpool supporters can be heard shouting.

“The stigma around English fans is being used by French public officials for cheap political gains,” Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evene told the Associated Press on Sunday.

The closure of the gates caused concern among hundreds of fans outside the Liverpool section, but there was little apparent aggression on their part. Disappointment was spreading among the people due to the enmity of the police.

Problems were encountered even before reaching the final turnstiles with entry points across the wider perimeter, forcing fans through narrow passageways that caused roadblocks.

While UEFA accused fans of arriving late to stadium announcements, thousands of people in Liverpool were greeted by organizational disorganization in the heat of the late afternoon for arriving hours before the game.

Ewen, who advised UEFA on supporters’ issues, said the crowd was partly due to fans turning to a smaller entrance 150 meters away rather than a larger one.

“There has always been a problem of mobility around the Stade de France,” Ivan said.

“We are shocked by the communication by the French public authorities. Liverpool and Real Madrid fans are the victims of yesterday’s fuss and are not the culprits here.

“It’s insane to fire tear gas shells at people trying to enter the stadium.”

The British government called on UEFA to launch a formal investigation into what went wrong with stadium officials and French officials.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “The footage and accounts of Liverpool fans and the media entering the Stade de France last night are very worrying.”

“It is in everyone’s interest to understand what happened and learn from these incidents.”

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