On Tuesday 21 June, Spirit of Shankly chair Joe Blott and Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association chair Ted Morris travelled to Paris to give evidence in front of the French Senate Law and Culture committee. They were joined by Real Madrid socio Emilio Dumas, and Ronan Evain and Pierre Barthélemy from Football Supporters Europe.
Below is a summary of the hearing in English. Thanks to Luke Tilden for the translation.
François-Noël Buffet, Chairman of the Law Committee “This afternoon we are continuing our hearings on the incidents at the Stade de France on 28 May. I apologise for the absence of our colleague Laurent Lafon, Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication, who unfortunately cannot be with us.
“Our work has already revealed the many failures that occurred on 28 May. Contrary to what the Minister of the Interior has said in this very room, English supporters were not the cause of these incidents. Let us be clear and unequivocal about this. In fact we all acknowledge that they showed remarkable restraint in chaotic circumstances.
“This hearing of supporters’ representatives is being live streamed on the Senate and “Public Sénat” website and is crucial to our understanding of what happened.
“We therefore welcome to the Senate Ronan Evain, Executive Director of Football Supporters Europe (FSE), Joe Blott, Chair of Spirit of Shankly, Ted Morris, Chair of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, Pierre Barthélemy, member of FSE, and Emilio Dumas, a Real Madrid socio, who is joining us by video link.
“Mr Blott and Mr Morris will speak in English with simultaneous interpreting provided throughout the hearing.”
Ronan Evain, Executive Director of Football Supporters Europe “Thank you for inviting us to speak to you on behalf of people who suffered as a result of the organisational failings at the recent Champions League final in Saint-Denis, especially the representatives of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans.
“At the end of their speeches, Pierre Barthélemy and myself, accredited observers and members of the national supporters’ body in France, will be able to provide you with some background information on the French context and some ideas on how to prevent such a situation from happening again.”
Ted Morris, Chair of Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association “My name is Ted Morris, and I am the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association Chair. I am a wheelchair user who relies on the assistance of my wife to get around.
“Thank you for inviting me to Paris today and for allowing me the opportunity to share with you the testimonies of our disabled supporters. It’s vital that you hear these stories as you accurately piece together the events that unfolded at the Stade De France.
“My wife and I have been visiting Paris for the last 27 years and adore the city. The Parisian people have always been friendly and welcoming, as they were on this occasion. My opinion changed on the 28th of May, and I no longer want to visit Paris if this is how those in authority treat visitors. I am here today to represent our disabled supporters after reading so many untruths from those very same people in authority about the events of that day.
“My wife and I arrived at the overground station La Plaine at approximately 3 pm. We were surprised to notice that there were no police officers outside the train station. Being a regular traveler with Liverpool Football Club, one of the most noticeable things you see when playing in Europe is the amount of Police that are present at these types of fixtures, this was unusual.
“We walked to the stadium and waited in a restaurant until 6pm. The situation in the outer perimeter soft ticket check area was a chaotic scene with young, inexperienced stewards attempting to check tickets while local people were trying to barge past them to get into the stadium.
“Very concerned my wife and I met Lee Lomax outside the stadium. Lee is a police spotter with Merseyside police, and he has accompanied us many times on our European travels. He is an exceptional police officer. He was worried about the situation getting seriously out of hand especially given how many fans had been targeted by pickpockets.
“We then made our way to the accessible entrance at Gate C. Wheelchair users had already been queueing for over one hour to get in. A disabled supporter had accessed the turnstile, but his personal assistant’s ticket would not scan despite numerous attempts. There didn’t seem to be a process for dealing with this and the queue just wasn’t moving. A wheelchair got knocked to the floor, and the steward fell onto a disabled wheelchair user…
“Given the unfolding situation, I contacted our Supporter Liaison Officer for Liverpool Football Club who made sure wheelchair users were able to enter the stadium. My wife and I then entered the stadium. Sadly, by this time, all the personal assistants’ seats were occupied by other people, meaning the PAs had to stand for upwards of four hours.
“The accessible toilets had no lighting: a steward advised me to use the torch on my mobile phone. At no stage did the Stade De France feel inclusive.
“I then started receiving messages that our disabled supporters, including children, were being teargassed and crushed outside the turnstiles. They started contacting me saying that they were terrified and panicking. Some feared for their lives.
“Fortunately, Liverpool supporters, who were also being teargassed, were assisting them as best they could and removing them to a place of safety. In my opinion it was only due to the actions shown by LFC supporters that a major disaster was averted. Nobody in authority helped our disabled supporters. All this is very sad.
“I would now like to share some of their experiences. H is a boy 14 years of age; he suffers from a rare congenital disorder called Williams syndrome. H was so excited to be at the stadium with his Dad. Whilst patiently queuing to enter the stadium, He was teargassed and had a burning sensation in his throat. He assumed this was something to do with the war in Ukraine which terrified the young boy.
“D is a blind man, and he writes that he was scared for his life. He was stuck outside a Gate, was pushed out of the way by stewards, and the man beside him fell to the floor, clutching his chest and gasping for air. A young boy next to him was screaming for his Dad, who was trapped outside the turnstile. After the game, on the way to the station, gangs were chasing them, bottles were raining down, and they were teargassed again. This frightened the life out of D, who as I have already mentioned is completely blind. Fortunately, the Liverpool supporters came to their aid and got them to a place of safety.
“R is a female disabled supporter attending the final with her elderly father. She was violently attacked by a gang who tried to steal her belongings. The details are too disturbing to share in this forum, but the full report will include all the details. Once again it was left to the Liverpool fans to come to her assistance.
“M is a female wheelchair user who was also trapped outside Gate Y. Her desperate pleas for help were ignored. Once again, it was the supporters of Liverpool FC who came to her rescue.
“C is a female wheelchair user who had to be lifted aloft by Liverpool supporters and crowd-surfed over the turnstiles because the stewards would not open the Gate. Once outside the ground, she was teargassed when making her way to the train station.
“A blind supporter was separated from his carer and left with no one to guide him. He was left traumatised by the incident.
B is an ambulant male supporter who suffers from severe anxiety and heart problems. He was in the crush outside the gates and attempted to assist 2 of our supporters in wheelchairs. He was attacked and pepper-sprayed and left traumatised.
“F is an eight-year-old boy. He attended the game with his 13-year-old brother and his Dad, they were so excited to be in Paris. F is autistic and suffers from Dyspraxia and oral Dyspraxia. He was being crushed outside the Gate and separated from his father and brother. It was a terrifying experience for the young disabled boy, they were eventually reunited. After the game, they were attacked by locals and teargassed. F was terrified that they would die.
“S is a 13-year-old girl and a wheelchair user who attended the game with her Mum, Dad, and 15-year-old brother. After the game, the family was held back in the underpass by the Police because the Liverpool fans in front of them on Avenue Stade De France, of which my wife and I were part, were being attacked by gangs of locals. S thought that the tear gas being deployed was bombs. She was terrified and left shocked and scared. What was supposed to be a fantastic family trip to Paris turned into a horror show for them.
“N is a young boy with multiple sclerosis. He was teargassed on three occasions. This episode caused N to have a relapse and left him severely unwell.
“These are just a few accounts of the many testimonies, over 9000, we have received from our disabled supporters. Some more graphic details have been left out but will be included in the full report. We were treated like animals! This will be to the eternal shame of all those in authority who were responsible for our safety but they failed. My wife and I have never been treated with so much contempt.
“We stayed in the stadium until the 86th minute of the game, mainly for safety reasons. On exiting the stadium, we headed towards the gates only to be told by a steward that we couldn’t get out because locals were still attempting to get into the stadium; after a heated discussion, we were allowed to exit although there was no police presence past this point.
“Once we exited the underpass with other Liverpool fans, we came under attack from scores of locals. It was terrifying and undoubtedly more so for wheelchair users. We ran towards the station where we hoped the Police would be there to protect us.
“This was a truly terrifying experience for my wife and I, a complete feeling of helplessness. We reach the station, only for the Police to teargas us again. We then see a young girl with her Dad, no older than six or seven. She is wearing a red Liverpool kit and is distraught and traumatised by the teargassing and attacks. It was one of the most distressing things I have ever seen.
“My wife and I then heard more loud explosions, which we thought were bombs. It was terrifying especially as we had lost contact with our 2 daughters, and we had no idea if they were safe or not.
“I will never forgive the French authorities who are completely responsible for everything that occurred at the Stade De France on May 28th 2022. The Liverpool and Real Madrid fans are in no way to blame. I have written to Lord Coe at the IOC and other institutions, expressing my concerns about upcoming events at the Stade De France. Unless the relevant authorities accept responsibility for their failings and learn from them, I believe the Olympics and Paralympics should be relocated.
“Measures need to be taken to protect wheelchair users. I hope lessons are learnt from the tragic events and the endangering of countless lives. Without changes made the Stade De France is not safe for disabled people to visit.
“In closing, I have a message for Mr Darmanin. You sir have disgraced the French government and humiliated the good people of Paris. My wife and I know and love “Paris but I call on you Mr Darmanin to retract your baseless accusations which have only added to our pain and mental trauma. If you have the decency to do that you must then do the honourable thing and resign.
“Over 33 years ago, people in authority spoke false narratives and spread lies about events at a football match that resulted in the loss of 97 lives. Mr Darmanin’s actions and narrative brought memories of that dark time flooding back. For that alone, he should be truly ashamed of himself.
“I want to thank all of you in the Senate today and Messrs Lafon and Buffet for the way you have conducted yourselves and for organising the hearings. We should never be afraid to tell the truth, even to the most powerful people. I’d like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share the experiences of our disabled supporters.
“Liverpool FC has had to deal with lies and slurs for over 33 years. Establishing the facts and the truth about what happened at the Stade De France is more vital to us than anyone could ever imagine.
“I would also like to thank the French media and many French journalists who have travelled to Liverpool in search of the truth. It is a huge source of comfort for us. The truth matters about these events, and we will not rest until the truth is told!
“You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
François-Noël Buffet “Before giving the floor to Mr Blott, I would like to say, on behalf of all of us, that you are welcome in the Senate and in Paris.”
Joe Blott, Chair of Spirit of Shankly “Thank you for welcoming us and your words about the Liverpool supporters. We are here to ensure justice is done. I very much welcome the opportunity to attend this Senate hearing today, in order to explain the experiences of Liverpool fans. This is in fact the first time a government institution has agreed to hear from Liverpool fans. I thank you for this.
“Spirit of Shankly, of which I was elected Chairman just over three years ago, is a democratic member organisation established in 2008 and exists to represent the views of our members who are all Liverpool supporters. We have over 250,000 social media followers and meet with Liverpool FC multiple times per week to discuss supporter-related issues. We are all volunteers.
“Our committee of 15 also includes a practicing lawyer, a member of the British Parliament, musicians, accountants and trade unionists amongst others. People from all walks of life, just like every other football fan.
“We are not here to seek some sort of revenge. we simply want to explain the truth of what happened to ensure that the French authorities make very significant changes so that nothing like this happens ever again.
“Not just British people have been affected: Liverpool is a global football club with fans all over the world and the events at the Stade de France on 28 May have been reported from the US to Australia and most countries in between.
“So to the events around the final. It was becoming clear that the police and French authorities had already developed a particular mindset. Football fans were barred from entering certain parts of Paris despite them having spent thousands of euros to visit your beautiful city – and only because they were wearing club colours.
“Similarly there were huge numbers of police at the fan park in Cours de Vincennes with the majority of police officers in full riot gear. Merseyside Police stated in their official pre-match report that “over the past ten years Liverpool supporters have been extremely well behaved in Europe. They have not been involved in any incidents of disorder. In addition, Liverpool fans adhere to the instructions of the police”. The best way to deal with Liverpool supporters is by firm but fair policing.
“Liverpool fans had travelled in their numbers throughout this season’s competition across Europe to Spain, Portugal and Italy with zero arrests, zero preventive arrests and zero ejections from stadia. Exemplary behaviour from over 25,000 fans. Indeed, some of this was even recognised in the report of Michel Cadot.
“So why were the Merseyside Police recommendations completely ignored by French authorities? Quite simply because the police and relevant authorities had a 1980’s mindset, treating Liverpool supporters as hooligans. 33 years after the tragic events of Hillsborough, the same flawed understanding and total misconception of travelling football fans caused the facts and advice of our local police force to be ignored.
“In his testimony here, the interior minister repeatedly said that French police memos claimed Liverpool fans presented a risk to French society. On what basis can he possibly make this claim? The interior minister and police are hiding behind outdated, ignorant and downright offensive views about football fans to try and cover up their own desperate failures.
“The report published by Michel Cadot shows a latent problem of understanding of football fans since the Hillsborough disaster.
“On 15 April 1989, 97 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed as a result of institutional failures caused solely by the British authorities and police. This has been legally proven and is the truth of what happened. To hear French authorities use similar lies to those used by the British authorities all those years ago once again in 2022, about fans arriving late, or with fake tickets, or drunk, has caused an immense amount of shock, anger and pain in Liverpool and around the world.
“Referring back to the report of Michel Cadot, we hear reports of 30/40,000 Liverpool fans travelling without tickets. This is stated as if there is something wrong in this. Why shouldn’t this number of fans or tourists travel, with or without tickets, to enjoy a festival of football? The fact a fan park was set up was a positive step to manage those expected numbers, numbers suggested by Merseyside Police by the way, with the overwhelming majority of those “ticketless fans” remaining in that fan park.
“The Prefect of Police seems to suggest the presence of these fans was at the ground, which is simply untrue. They certainly weren’t travelling back to the centre of Paris. Indeed the numbers quoted simply do not stand up to scrutiny. If there were 40,000 ticketless fans, plus the 20,000 official Liverpool ticket holders, plus at least 15,000 Liverpool fans who purchased UEFA allocated tickets, this means that there were nearly 75,000 Liverpool fans on top of the Real Madrid allocations so over 100,000? Quite simply absurd.
“We also hear of fake tickets. Ridiculously described by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin as being on an industrial scale. In the Cadot Report this is actually defined as 1600. It is a simple fact of big events that fake tickets will emerge. This is why there are outer perimeter checks, and electronic bar codes on tickets. If you put yourself forward to host a game as France/Paris did, you need to manage it by checking tickets before fans enter the inner perimeter and protect them from any form of violence.
“Lets now move to safety and security.
“Of course we know there is a terrorist risk in France. We know of your suffering following the tragic events of 13 November 2015 when the Stade de France was targeted with explosions during an international friendly between France and Germany. Indeed, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin warned about this stating the stadium was highly protected. If this was the case how come the stadium forecourt was infiltrated by groups of pickpockets ?
“The Prefect of Police has clearly indicated his regret – as he well should! – at the use of tear gas etc, against vulnerable people. Using teargas was completely unnecessary..
“The Cadot report mentions the presence of 1,300 staff inside the stadium and 6,800 police officers, gendarmes and firemen deployed on the various sites, at the stadium and in the fan zones. And yet, let me repeat this, the whole venue was so easily breached. It was a complete failure.
“Shortly before full-time around 200 police officers lined up in full riot gear in front of Liverpool fans inside the stadium. There were none at the Real Madrid end of the stadium. This once again shows that the intelligence used by French authorities was both flawed and based on preconceived ideas. Pitch invasions have never been a part of Liverpool’s culture.
“Why was there a complete lack of signage between the RER station and the stadium? Why are the SNCF and RATP transport figures not being made better use of ? Why are stewards not better trained? How could the French authorities communicate such falsehoods?
“Some fans paid up to €670 for a match ticket. At the same time the Interior Minister has seen fit to blame the Liverpool fans despite the fact that their heroic behaviour saved lives.
“As I have said, the roots of this lie in the misconceptions of football fans. The hooligans simply do not exist and the French police didn’t alter their tactics.
“Let me repeat this: the behavior of the Liverpool fans was exemplary.
“We have been very keenly following the work the Senate has been doing. Many of its findings so far have been encouraging and promising. We must however demand a full apology from French authorities and retraction of the lies and smears levelled at the Liverpool fans. There must be a full independent and transparent investigation so the world can once more have confidence in the ability for France to hold global sporting events.”
Emilio Dumas, Real Madrid socio “I thank the Senate for giving me the opportunity to share the experience of someone who has been a Real Madrid socio for almost 30 years. My father, who is French, has been a socio since 1929.
“I came from Madrid for the match by car with three friends. I bought my paper ticket for 60 euros and my seat was at the north end, entrance N. I had already been to nine Champions League finals, including two in France. I had never experienced any incidents.
“On 28 May, after a problem-free journey, we arrived by metro at the fan zone in Saint-Denis. The atmosphere was already quite tense, with groups of local youths looking for trouble. There were reports of young women being harassed and assaulted.
“Walking towards the stadium, I noticed that there was no signage, the first failure in the organisation. Another was that we were not separated from the Liverpool fans.
“At the very first turnstiles – and there weren’t many of them – bottlenecks developed, and more and more people were being targeted by pickpockets. I know people who had their wallets stolen with their tickets and had to return to their hotels to watch the game.
“Secondly, the walkway is not suitable for people with mobility problems and is dangerous because it is narrow. I was afraid that some people might fall into the canal.
“I would like to point out that I did not witness any incidents with the English supporters. I am therefore at a loss to understand the statements made by Minister Darmanin.
“At the end of the match, we were more worried than happy, because leaving the stadium seemed to me to be fraught with danger, as the exit walkway felt like a potential trap. I was genuinely afraid of something tragic happening.
“The police were either not there at all or if they were they weren’t helping anyone. I have never seen such passive policing in the face of continued provocation by groups of thugs.
“Spanish coaches and cars were parked three kilometres away and many vehicles were damaged. The next day, at the motorway service areas where we stopped, other fans told me their stories which made me ashamed for France.
“The French authorities hid behind the fact that they had only had three months to organise the match. This explanation does not hold up: in 2018, Madrid successfully organised with two weeks’ notice the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate, who are known for their unruly supporters. The match however passed off without any incident.
“I’m sad to say this, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to come to France to watch the Rugby World Cup or the Olympics.”
Mr Ronan Evain, Executive Director of Football Supporters Europe “In this story, English fans have been victims of three things.
“Firstly, old-fashioned and outdated perceptions: hooligans no longer exist and the world has changed.
“Secondly, the antiquated mobility plan around the Stade de France: this is a long-standing problem that has been identified many times before. This is why the fans arrived at the stadium early. On the day in question, the problem became more acute, and it is essential to rethink the geographical layout of the site.
“Finally, I must say that the fans were treated as we are systematically treated in France, i.e. as a threat. Nobody focused on hospitality, on welcoming them. We only saw riot police, whose job is not to support or help people.
“We must abandon this dangerous, outdated French approach. In this respect, France can and must learn from its neighbours.
“Paper tickets have been blamed, but they were still the norm at the Stade de France at the French Football Cup final: why did they suddenly become a threat?
“Secondly, as the previous speaker said, three months was plenty of time.
“Finally, I would like to add that no drinking water was available around the stadium, which is disgraceful in these periods of high temperatures.
“The security approach of the Paris police prefecture is mirrored in the French Football Federation, where there is no dialogue with supporters’ groups. Even the Faroe Islands or San Marino are doing more in this area. This is a subject that really needs to be discussed.”
Pierre Barthélemy, member of Football Supporters Europe “I don’t want this solely to be an exercise in self-flagellation. We can improve things if we move quickly. In this respect, the Cadot report provides a good foundation. The Senate has an important role to play. The Murat-Martin report of 2007, “Should we be afraid of the fans?” was very visionary, and the Upper House succeeded in ensuring dialogue with fans was included in the 2016 law aimed at combating hooliganism.
“There are still several areas for improvement. Firstly, there is the management of flows from public transport hubs. We still need to put in place signage: I don’t understand why the police prefecture refuses. Finally, we must be able to anticipate unforeseen events such as technical incidents or strikes. France prohibits fan walks, but our European counterparts know full well that this is an advantage for safety and security, because it allows us to know where the fans are and to better manage them.
“Similarly, supporters of the French Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 are banned from travelling by train, which is an absurdity, since it means the choice is to leave them completely to their own devices. Quite apart from the incidents that have brought us together today, France has a great deal of work to do to improve the management of supporters. We also need to improve our ability to respond and make decisions immediately.
“As early as 6 p.m. on that day, we had noticed that there were going to be problems, but we could not find anyone to share our concerns with. It would be advisable to appoint a police liaison officer for each stadium who has initimate knowledge of the stadium and can respond immediately to any problem that arises.
“On the fourth point, I will be very brief, because it has already been mentioned: we must learn to understand the profile of supporters, which varies from one match to another and from one club to another. In France, as we consider that there are only two problems to be managed during a match, hooliganism and terrorism, we do not know how to adapt the system to the particular situation of a match.
“We absolutely must improve on this point. To do this, the green paper on “supporterism”, which was commissioned by Rama Yade when she was Minister of Sport, laid down some very good sociological bases.
“Fifth point: we must anticipate external risks. I won’t go back over the chilling testimonies of the Liverpool or Real Madrid fans on the criminal acts that they were subjected to during this match, but our feeling is that this problem was never envisaged. What struck us most was that when the fans left the stadium, even though there had already been a lot of violent crime before the match, there was no police presence, apart from a group of officers pitchside below the stands to prevent a pitch invasion.
“Outside the stadium, once the final whistle was blown, the streetlights were switched off and there were no more police officers.”
François-Noël Buffet “What exactly do you mean by that?”
Pierre Barthélemy “When we took the walkway to line 13 or the RER D, there was virtually no lighting and we were almost in complete darkness.”
François-Noël Buffet “On the public highway?”
Pierre Barthélemy “Absolutely. That is also what facilitated the attacks. A police presence should be maintained after a match has ended.”
“The sixth point had already been mentioned during the incidents that seriously and sadly marred the resumption of football after the covid crisis at the beginning of the season: there is insufficient supervision, recruitment, preparation, pay and appreciation of the stewards.
“They are fundamental to the safety and security of sports matches, but also to smooth stadium access. Many English fans have spoken of having their tickets stolen by stewards who proceeded to sell them onto other people, something we find absolutely incredible.
“Many of the stewards were eighteen or nineteen years old and were doing this job for the first time in their lives. Not only did they not know how to manage a normal match, but they were completely unprepared for the situation on the day, computer problems, delays, queues…
“We must therefore urgently address the issue of training and pay for stewards. We cannot expect them, when they are paid a pittance, to go and take risks, especially to chase after people who climb over barriers or try to force their way through.
“Seventh point: the national supporters’ body, created at the initiative of the Senate and placed under the authority of the Minister of Sport, has done exceptional work for several years, on a purely voluntary basis. It was disbanded during the first lockdown and as a result, there have been a number of serious incidents in the French first division.
“This body must be fully reactivated and it gradually is because there is a growing realisation that the drop in the number of incidents between 2016 and the first lockdown was directly down to the work of this body. It brings together representatives of ministries, the police, the football league and supporters’ representatives. There is an urgent need to provide it with human and financial resources so that it can organise serious working meetings.
“The Ministry of Sport should assign one or two people, one or two days a week, to the work of this body. The money spent in this way will then help drive down the huge costs of policing, improve the stadium experience and fan enthusiasm.
“Eighth point: the Senate is also behind the creation of supporter liaison officers. They are a club employee who is in contact with the supporters. This tool has eased tensions between supporters’ groups and their club, and any tensions that remained were down to a lack of communication.
“This is a hugely important initiative and should be made better use of by the police prefecture or the French Football Federation, which does not have such a position for its own supporters.
“During such a meeting, for example, we could have had a direct link with the supporter liaison officers from both clubs and the authorities, which would have enabled problems to be identified straight away and the relevant information immediately passed on. This would have saved us two hours.
“The last three points are more general. In France, we have what is known as the National Division for Combating Hooliganism (DNLH). These are police officers in the Ministry of the Interior who are in charge of the organisational arrangements for football matches.
“This term itself is problematic, as it shows that the organisation of sports events is only considered from a public order angle, i.e. combating hooliganism. There is no constructive approach or arrangements for smooth flows and dialogue, whereas this is the norm in most European countries. There is therefore an urgent need to give more thought to this division, which was not in charge of organising the security for this match.
“In France, every time there is an incident, we resort to collective measures – travel bans, closure of stands – and never to individual measures. We urgently need to switch to individual measures: we must ban troublemakers from our stadiums.
“These are a very few people who create huge problems and tarnish the image of French football. They are the ones who should be targeted. We must stop sweeping the problems under the carpet by taking global, collective measures that punish 10,000 or 15,000 spectators for the actions of five, ten or fifteen supporters. These measures serve no purpose other than to punish innocent people, since these few troublemakers return to the next match… But they delegitimise the action of the sports authorities and the State.
“One last point: a law on sport was supposed to be voted at the end of the previous five-year term. Many promises had been made to many players, and in particular to fans. A lot of progress was to be made. This law has been shelved. The Parliament must urgently revisit these issues. We would be very happy to help it in drafting improvements to the national regulations in this area.”
Jean-Jacques Lozac “Thank you for these powerful and devastating testimonies! Mr Evain, during Euro 2016 you were the coordinator of the “Fan Embassies” project. You thus contributed to the success of this major event in France.
“What lessons do you draw from this experience? In your opinion, was the evening of 28 May a one-off incident or does it indicate a loss of know-how in our country, or even the use of a bad policing doctrine? Will the ESF bring legal proceedings? What are your main recommendations in terms of regulating travel and hospitality conditions for fans, or capping ticket prices? As head of the ESF, were you involved at any time in the liaison group that oversaw preparations for this evening? Did you ask to be?”
Pierre-Antoine Levi “There is no doubt that what we have heard is very damning and we can only apologise to you, gentlemen, and try to find an explanation for these tragic events which are bound to have affected your willingness to return to France… What is important for us, however, is to see you return!
“We know how to organise events in France, since we successfully organised the 1998 Football World Cup and Euro 2016. Mr Barthélemy is right to call for individual sanctions. When Liverpool had to tackle hooliganism, including the tragic events at Heysel in 1985 during the European Cup final, English clubs were banned from Europe for five years. This period allowed us to work with fans and stamp out hooliganism. It is incredible to hear the interior minister and political and police officials accuse Liverpool fans of hooliganism, when it was they who prevented the situation from becoming far more serious.
“We do need to work on a sports act. We had proposed ways forward, which unfortunately were rejected.
“We have already collected many testimonies from different political and judicial figures. Do these seem consistent with what you have experienced? Can you confirm that you saw stewards reselling tickets that they had confiscated? Was the security service put in place by the police totally overwhelmed by events?
“I think it was more of a slip-up. We are hosting the Olympics in 2024, and the Rugby World Cup next year. Should we be worried? Can you also make proposals to prevent this kind of failure from happening again in the future?”
François-Noël Buffet “I now give the floor to Mr Kanner, former Sports Minister who strongly pushed for us to organise this hearing, which was necessary, by the way… Mr Patrick Kanner, and I thank you for organising it!”
Patrick Kanner, former Sports Minister “Yes, your testimonies are devastating and describe an apocalyptic situation. As a former sports minister, this seems totally extraordinary – and I would like to thank Mr Barthélemy and Mr Evain for having reminded us of our work on the law on “supporterism”, carried out with Thierry Braillard, and with the support of Mr Savin and Mr Lozach, and many other Senators. We sought to improve the text proposed by the National Assembly.
“Our English friends are calling for the Ministry of the Interior’s role in all this to be brought to light, something that would be typically demanded in the UK but that is more unusual in French culture. This request deserves to be taken into consideration.
“We had mentioned the idea of calling back the Minister of the Interior, or even the Minister of Sport, in view of the testimony we have gathered. The former who we heard two or three days after these dramatic events, had acknowledged the incidents, but had the hubris to declare that there was nothing more to say on the matter. Now there are obviously things to say. Are we going to question him again in the light of the testimonies gathered since his hearing? Should we consider legislative work to improve the current situation, especially in view of the events scheduled for 2023 and 2024?
“I have not forgotten that we organised Euro 2016 and that there were no incidents, apart from those surrounding the Russia-England match in the Vieux-Port of Marseille, which however were not entirely connected to the organisation of the match that was held that evening at the Velodrome Stadium. The Senate, which was behind the initiative to hold these hearings, thanks to the efforts of Presidents Buffet and Lafon, is undoubtedly the most legitimate body to act on the proposals that you have made.”
Bernard Fialaire “I join in the apologies made today by all the Senators. When the disabled fans arrived in the stadium, their seats were already taken. Did they have their tickets? Did the people who occupied their seats have theirs?”
Jacques Grosperrin “These are indeed horrifying accounts, and I also join in the apologies that all the Senators are making on behalf of France. Is there organised travel from Liverpool with ticket checks? Did the person referred to by Mr Morris who was tear-gassed feel that he was directly targeted or was he a victim of collateral damage?
“You mentioned the Minister of the Interior by name and said that he should be ashamed of what he said. Why do you think he lied? And why won’t he apologise? We heard the Paris police prefect, who told us that he would act to enable you to lodge a complaint against the authorities. Has this been done?”
Michel Savin “We all have the same objective: to find out the truth about what happened at the Stade de France on the day of the final.”
“Listening to the English or Spanish speakers, the real troublemakers in the disastrous events at the Stade de France were, for the most part, thugs from local gangs.
“Listening to the Minister of the Interior, the violent behaviour and criminal acts that took place around the Stade de France were due to the presence of 30,000 to 40,000
“Liverpool supporters who did not have tickets or who had fake tickets. Looking at live pictures broadcast by TF1, at 8.58pm, there is no trace of these 30,000 to 40,000 spectators. What do Liverpool and Madrid fans think? Did they see 30,000 to 40,000 fans without tickets or with fake tickets?
“The CCTV footage has been deleted. Were no official complaints filed after the match? This would have allowed the French authorities to seize these images.”
François-Noël Buffet “The acts of violence that you mention took place before the match, but also after. Do you have any comments to make?”
Ronan Evain ” On the comparison with Euro 2016, there are two elements to be factored in. In 2016, all the State services, especially the Ministry of Sport, and the host cities were genuinely involved. The conditions for welcoming and hosting fans were much better taken into account than they are today: clearly, we have lost expertise since 2016, especially since the Covid crisis.
“This does not mean that Euro 2016 was perfect. We made the mistake of ignoring the feedback, apart from a few debriefing meetings with the interministerial delegation for major sports events. I don’t remember any real work being done.
“At least two elements would have been relevant for the Champions League final: the mobility plan, for everything concerning traffic and signposting around the Stade de France, and the question of the stewards. In 2016, the budget for stadium security required the use of a very large number of security companies: the main stakeholders in this field in France were not interested in low value contracts, even though we were dealing with a period marked by a risk of terrorism. I hope that the work of the Senate will make it possible to identify these mistakes and not to repeat them.
“Our role as an organisation is not so much to prosecute as to advise our members in Liverpool and Madrid on their best options. A number of them have made complaints about assaults, phone thefts and the like. Others are preparing to report to the Inspectorate General of the National Police (IGPN). But it is not easy, because the form that has been put online on the website of the French Embassy in the UK and the French Embassy in Spain does not necessarily correspond to what the English and Spanish supporters experienced.
“In addition, the (French) police officers who travelled to Liverpool were largely missing.
“We, as a supporters’ organisation, know from our contacts in the British police that they were present in Liverpool, but at no time did they have the opportunity to collect complaints or advise supporters. This leads us to wonder what the purpose of the deployment of these French police officers in Liverpool was.
“Filing a complaint after a match is a problem that we always encounter at European matches. If you have been assaulted, if you have been the victim of police violence, your first reflex will be to go home. It is only when you get home, after a few days, that you consider filing a complaint.
The Interior Ministry’s proposal was an interesting one, because it could facilitate the filing of a complaint. Unfortunately, it was not followed up.”
François-Noël Buffet “How many people have already filed a complaint?
Ronan Evain “The form that was put online was a preliminary complaint to the Bobigny prosecutor. As far as we know, no complaints have been received by the judicial police officer in Liverpool.
“We are working on making recommendations: we are accredited to observe the finals for this purpose. We will provide you with a first version in the next few days. In preparation for a finals match, we usually make a preparatory visit in the presence of the police, or at least the state services. We did not do this for this match, which was put down to the short timeframe.
“However, unlike two or three years ago, we no longer have any channels of communication with the Police Prefecture or the Ministry of the Interior. We were therefore only able to observe a build-up of errors, without being able to influence the course of events, which followed a largely unpredictable scenario and had a domino effect.
“Yes, we can be worried about future competitions, particularly from the point of view of mobility, the lack of a culture of hospitality around major sporting events and the shortage of stewards. Having said that, we know that football fans are treated differently: it is not so much their behaviour that is a problem as the way they are perceived by the police. If rugby or athletics fans had been put in the same position as the Liverpool fans at the time of the bottleneck, waiting in the sun with no access to toilets or drinking water, surrounded by crowds, perhaps they would have reacted in a way that would have made the situation far more problematic. But it is difficult to imagine today that we would have such a deployment of forces for a rugby match or for the Olympic Games!
“Among the proposals currently being made to prevent such a situation from recurring, two are based on a new technology that is rapidly developing, artificial intelligence, and in particular facial recognition. We are not calling for yet more funds to be invested in CCTV or other infrastructure, as we already have one of the best stadiums in Europe in this respect. The issue is human investment, i.e. dialogue and prevention on the one hand, and staff on the other, who must be trained and paid properly.
“Why did the Minister of the Interior lie? It is more a question of an overly hasty communication: the spectators were still stuck outside the stadium and the minister saw fit to issue communication in which he blamed the Liverpool supporters… This is the original error of communication, which put the Government in a bind that is has still not been able to extricate itself from.”
Pierre Barthélemy “Ronan and I can attest that there were not 30,000 to 40,000 ticketless supporters outside the ground once fans had entered the stadium. From 8.45 p.m. until 10 p.m., the only people left around the stadium were either Liverpool fans queuing very patiently outside the gates at the turnstiles, or groups of youths running around the stadium to try to get through the gates. The forecourt was very sparsely populated.”
Ted Morris “You mention the seats that were taken by other supporters. It was simply a question of lack of organisation in the section where we had to stand. Fans were coming into the stadium and there was no one to direct them to their seats. They ended up taking the available seats – including seats reserved for people accompanying disabled people.
“The boy who was tear-gassed is too young to understand what happened to him. When the police attacked him and sprayed him with tear gas, he immediately thought of the conflict in Ukraine, and he must have been completely terrified.
“Why did the minister lie? That is the key question and I hope that these hearings will provide the answer. Why were the CCTV images deleted? In my opinion, because they do not fit the Interior Minister’s narrative. The fact that the footage was removed proves that he did not want his story to be debunked.
“As for the 30,000 or 40,000 fans who were outside the stadium, with fake tickets or without tickets, we have gone out of our way to disprove this claim from the outset. We have succeeded in doing so, thanks in part to the work of this committee. Thank you very much.”
Joe Blott “Thank you for listening to us and for asking some very valid questions. You asked if we were aware of ticket theft by stewards. Yes, we received reports of that.
“About 9,000 complaints have been made and passed on to Liverpool FC. Once all these complaints have been collected and compiled, we will publish a report.
“We have heard that the French police have had a dialogue with Liverpool FC, but that is not the case. The French police force came to Liverpool but did not meet anyone from the supporters’ club.
“You mention the forms. In fact, many Liverpool supporters think that if they fill in the form they will be summoned at some point to give evidence. In 1986, a lot of supporters gave evidence and their evidence was taken completely out of context and sometimes distorted. Fans are therefore very wary.
“As for the violence before and after the match, I agree with our colleague from Real Madrid that it was not Real Madrid or Liverpool fans who were causing this. In 2018 in Kiev and in 2020 in Madrid, there were no problems! What happened is not at all down to fans from both teams, but to local thugs who attacked the fans who went to the match.”
Ronan Evain “We are also involved in the independent UEFA investigation: I am in contact with the person who is in charge of the investigation. We will be providing the investigation with our recommendations and comments on the organisation of the final.”
François-Noël Buffet “You mentioned earlier that leaving the stadium was dangerous. Can you be more precise?”
Emilio Dumas “Most of the Madrid fans left the stadium half an hour after the end of the match. You had to cross a rather narrow footbridge over a small canal that surrounds the stadium, and there were thousands of us, including spectators carrying children in their arms, elderly people, a huge crowd.
“There was no one to direct the flow, and we were on top of each other. Fortunately, no one fell off the bridge! If someone had set off a flare, there could have been a stampede. At the end of the bridge, there was this staircase of about thirty steps, with police officers at the bottom – but there were none on the bridge! The exit was therefore quite dangerous, especially as there was no lighting. And the ground was littered with broken bottles… We could have been hurt.”
François-Noël Buffet “The representatives of the English fans said that at one point the stewards abandoned ticket checks and that the fans had got into the stadium. Did you experience the same thing on the Madrid side?”
Emilio Dumas “Not at all. It is true that the stewards were very young and not very professional, but they did not stop checking tickets.”
“On the subject of fake tickets, I didn’t see many. But there were thugs who snatched our tickets out of our hands as we went through the turnstiles and ran off. If they were caught by someone, their technique was to hand in a fake ticket from another pocket and keep the genuine one. That’s why many Madrid fans couldn’t get in. I saw about ten incidents of this type.”
François-Noël Buffet “Thank you all. Your testimonies are very important for us. It is important for us to hear from both Real Madrid and Liverpool supporters. If you have anything else to share with us, it will be most welcome. I repeat to our English friends that we obviously want them to come back. The Stade de France is also a place where great events have been held, without any incident – what happened recently is intolerable.”