UEFA bears ‘primary responsibility’ for the failure of the Champions League final – report

UEFA bears “primary responsibility for failures” that almost led to May’s chaotic Champions League final becoming a “mass fatality disaster”, an independent report in the scenes said.

Severe congestion problems outside the Stade de France in Paris caused thousands of Liverpool fans to huddle against the fences and become trapped in a motorway underpass in the run-up to the game against Real Madrid.

Those same supporters, who had already been targeted by local youths trying to steal tickets, were then tear-gassed by police to alleviate further problems after a decision was made to close turnstile gates, but that only exacerbated the problem.

UEFA commissioned a team led by Portugal’s Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues to investigate the events and after delaying publication from late November, the report has now been released on Monday evening, but only after it was leaked earlier in the day.

It was scathing reading for European football’s governing body and French authorities – while completely exonerating the behavior of Liverpool fans for whom UEFA’s blame for being late and delaying kick-off was “manifestly inaccurate” and French officials claimed to have thousands of counterfeit tickets.

“The panel concluded that UEFA, as the owner of the event, bears primary responsibility for failures that nearly led to disaster,” the report said.

“The dangerous conditions in the concourse outside the turnstiles were exacerbated by police using tear gas against disorderly groups of local residents and using pepper spray against supporters who tried to gain entry with valid tickets.

“It is remarkable that no one lost their life. All stakeholders interviewed by the panel agree that this situation was a near miss: a term used when an event nearly turns into a catastrophe with mass fatalities.”

Liverpool had criticized the leak of the report on the night of their 242nd Merseyside derby at home to Everton, believing the thousands of supporters affected by incidents on that night deserved the right to report the findings in an official capacity to watch.

Liverpool v Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League – Final – Stade de France

Stewards check fans’ tickets at turnstiles ahead of the Champions League final (Nick Potts/PA)

The report suggested that UEFA marginalized its own safety and security unit ahead of the event, which was late redeployed to Paris after Russia invaded Ukraine and was stripped of hosting the final in St Petersburg.

The French authorities have been criticized for a lack of foresight about what was needed that night.

“The panel is left with a sense of genuine concern about the lack of understanding of what happened on May 28 and the failure to recognize the role of the authorities,” the report said.

“The panel also suffers from some major disagreements about the facts of what happened, and a general default position to blame the Liverpool supporters, without any good evidence base.

“Claims that late, ticketless supporters were either the primary cause or contributed to the dangerous events have particular resonance at Hillsborough, where similar allegations were made… and took decades to be fully refuted.

“Senior officials at the top of UEFA allowed this to happen, even though the shortcomings of the model were well known at senior management level, as recognized by the panel.”

Thousands of Liverpool fans, several of whom were survivors or relatives of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster that killed 97 people, were adversely affected by the night’s events.

“It is hugely disappointing that a report of such importance, such importance to the lives and future safety of football supporters, should be leaked and published in this way,” a club statement said.

“The independent panel has taken more than eight months of work and it is only right and proper to appropriately publish the contents of the report to our constituency.

“We are waiting for a copy of the report and are reviewing it thoroughly before commenting further.”

Meanwhile, UEFA confirmed that it will announce a special refund scheme for fans upon receipt of the assessment’s findings.

UEFA Secretary General Theodore Theodoridis said: “On behalf of UEFA, I would like once again to offer my sincerest apologies to all those affected by the events that took place at what should have been a celebration at the height of the club’s season.

“I would like in particular to apologize to the supporters of Liverpool FC for the experiences many of them had while attending the match and for the messages circulated prior to and during the match which resulted in them being wrongly blamed for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.

“UEFA is determined to learn from the events of May 28.”

Leave a Comment