Paris 2022 UEFA Inquiry2023-02-15T17:55:20+00:00
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Paris 2022 UEFA Inquiry

UEFA Inquiry – Liverpool fans exonerated

UEFA’s Independent Panel Inquiry runs to 220 pages – a forensic piece of work detailing how and why the events of 28 May 2022 occurred. 

They conclude that a series of failures caused or contributed to the problems on 28 May 2022, but have focussed on UEFA, French Football Federation, and the Préfecture de Police because of their key roles, which should have ensured the safety of the final

They summarise that “ the UEFA ‘model’ created a lacuna, whereby no one had proper oversight over the full planning and operational picture, and a particular consequence of this was that there were substantial deficits in joint working between stakeholders, which were not picked-up and remedied.”

An overriding factor, one repeated throughout the report,  and one the Panel found  “remarkable” is the “absence of joint working – or interoperability – between key stakeholders”.

Some of the major failings of those stakeholders, published in the Inquiry, are outlined below. For those who would like to read the full report, you can find it here

At 15:30 on 28 May 2022, a highly experienced UEFA Security Officer appointed by UEFA to monitor safety and security measures arrived at Stade de France and began an inspection of the temporary additional security and ticket check perimeter surrounding the stadium. At Additional Security Perimeter entrance 3 (ASP3), he immediately noted arrangements were “not fit for purpose”, and reported such to his UEFA colleagues.

The similarities [with Hillsborough] include the fact both were preventable and both were caused by the failures of those responsible for public safety. Neither was a ‘black swan’ event, or the result of a ‘perfect storm’. Both events were foreseeable. In the judgment of the Panel, the different outcomes were a matter of chance: in one nearly a hundred died, the other none, but through no merit of those in charge.

As the crisis in Paris unfolded, UEFA announced on big screens within the stadium and thereby via broadcasters to the world, that the delay in kick-off was due to ‘late’ arriving supporters. This claim was objectively untrue.

On the night, and in the immediate aftermath, French Ministers, UEFA and others blamed supporters at the Liverpool end of the stadium whom they asserted sought to actively enter the stadium without valid tickets. The Panel found the evidence does not support these assertions and draws the inference that they were made to deflect from responsibility for planning and operational failures.

Several key stakeholders have not accepted responsibility for their own failures but have been quick to attribute blame to others. Some have continued to make allegations – in particular against supporters – based upon ‘facts’ for which there is no evidence.

Institutional defensiveness, putting reputation and self-interest above truth and responsibility, prevents progressive change.

Those responsible for public safety are under a duty to plan and operate all reasonable measures to minimise the risk to life and threat of serious injury. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, requires member States to ensure all reasonable measures are taken to protect life from known threats.

Two overarching organisational failures lie at the root of what went so disastrously wrong. 

  • The UEFA ‘model’ for organising was defective in that there was an absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security. 
  • The safety, security and service model laid out in the Saint-Denis Convention (an agreement, signed in 2016 to provide a “safe, secure and welcoming environment at football matches and other sports events”) was ignored in favour of a securitized approach which was inappropriately based on incorrect assumptions that LFC supporters posed significant threats to public order. That inexplicable misconception resulted in a policing approach that lacked capacity for engagement and failed to integrate into a coherent multi-agency framework.

UEFA should have retained a monitoring and oversight role, to ensure it all worked. It self-evidently did not

UEFA’s ‘delegation and deference’ model led to a lacuna whereby mobility and access plans, and communication were not monitored. Flaws were not identified, and consequently not rectified. This represented an unacceptable abdication of responsibility by UEFA.

Not following its own safety, security and service requirements was a recipe for failure. Senior officials at the top of UEFA allowed this to happen, even though the shortcomings of its model were widely known at senior management level.

The Panel shares the dissatisfaction of LFC regarding the UEFA Security Meeting two days before the final – MD-2. Despite the admission by UEFA that there was a mistake in language over pitch invasions, the Panel is in no doubt this influenced the decision by police to deploy officers in front of LFC supporter sections inside the stadium towards the end of the match. Given subsequent eyewitness testimonies of post-match attacks by locals on LFC and Real Madrid supporters outside the stadium, the Panel can only conclude that these resources would have been better utilized protecting the egress of supporters.

LFC: “The supporters who are travelling, whether you have a ticket to the game or not, we should be thinking about welcoming them, making that experience the best they can possibly have. It’s supposed to be a celebration.” The Panel does not disagree.

The public response of UEFA in the aftermath of the problems on the night, and in its subsequent evidence to the Senate was striking in its orientation to protect itself.

It was a serious error for UEFA to assume it could avoid accountability for a foreseeable near disaster at its flagship event, as the public reaction has shown.

UEFA has enormous ‘soft power’, and it should use it to ensure its customers and clients are treated properly and protected

UEFA played a role in messaging once the crisis occurred, putting up two messages on the stadium screens: firstly kick-off was delayed “due to a security issue”, and then caused by late arriving supporters. UEFA General Secretary Mr Theodoridis agreed, it was not true and in the words of UEFA Operations Director Sharon Burkhalter-Lau: “there would have been a better option”. The Panel agrees.

UEFA use pre-prepared messaging given the difficulty of composing text in the moment and the need for translation. There were hundreds to choose from, but these were the only two related to delayed kick-off. There is no excuse for putting out inaccurate information, and in this circumstance the message was not only wholly inaccurate but deeply distressing to Liverpool supporters. 

On the evening of 28 May 2022, UEFA put out a press release asserting “the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands who had purchased fake tickets…” 

On 8 June 2022, a UEFA presentation included its view of the cause of the near-disaster: “late arrivals and the masses of LFC supporters, many of whom without valid tickets, caused the pressure on the screening point, with people taking the opportunity to force access and then to the stadium, profiting from this disfunction”. Given the congestion had overwhelmed ASP3 around 7pm, it is clear the problems did not result from anyone’s late arrival.

UEFA Deputy General Secretary Georgio Marchetti commented that the fake ticket issue: “may have been blown out of proportion”. A UEFA Security Officer, who had also been in charge of perimeter security for the final at Cardiff in 2017, described problems with fake tickets as no more than he had seen there, and probably no more than foreseen.

Stadium messaging, the UEFA press release on the night and UEFA analysis on 8 June 2022 all failed to mention the planning and operational deficits identified by the Panel and laid the cause squarely at the feet of the supporters. That is not acceptable because it is objectively wrong.

The use of tear gas/pepper spray significantly increased the dangers from crushes. Video footage shows temporary fencing bent through pressures caused from supporters trying to escape.

The deployment of tear gas in this confined location was completely inappropriate as it was both life-threatening and disproportionate. 

 The late change of venue amplified the imperative for effective interoperability and communication between stakeholders. Safety and security are binary. Hospitality and concessions can be compromised. The key stakeholders should have ensured all arrangements were joined-up and all agencies were working together, with UEFA at the centre, overseeing the whole project. This simply did not happen.

With no police to protect anyone from sporadic criminality, it appears from video footage and eyewitness accounts, Liverpool supporters on this part of the concourse spontaneously formed orderly queues, admonished those seeking to circumvent these and collectively organised to protect the vulnerable. The capacity of Liverpool supporters to self-organise was a primary factor in preventing harm and ensuring the inquiry was investigating a ‘near miss’ rather than a stadium tragedy involving fatalities.

Referencing Hillsborough with respect to the policing approach was an appalling error. This was amplified by publishing messages blaming ‘late’ supporters, not only untrue, but was obviously going to offend and traumatise LFC supporters. The messaging represented both a casual disregard for the truth and a lack of understanding of the supporter base they were responsible for managing. UEFA senior managers should have understood how the message would resonate with well-known issues surrounding the Hillsborough disaster and subsequent cover-up. Many survivors from Hillsborough were at the Paris events.

Several concerns about risk assessments were highlighted by LFC. They noted as well as the risk to public order being wrongly perceived by police, their supporters were wrongly assessed by UEFA as presenting a high risk of pitch invasion. 

Evidence clearly shows an unwillingness by the Préfecture de Police to work collaboratively with other stakeholders.

That UEFA were unaware even of the nature of the policing operation is wholly unacceptable

Problems were a result of a far larger number of supporters than expected arriving via RER D, a failure to direct them appropriately to ASPs and hopelessly designed access arrangements. These issues were then compounded by an absence of contingency plans, a failure to deal with the problem of local youths, and a failure to maintain a reasonable throughput at turnstiles.

The French Football Federation planned to signpost a proportion of supporters at RER D toward ASP4 (not ASP3), but this was countermanded by Police days before the final on the basis that FFF wanted it to prevent supporters impeding VIP buses, and they removed the signs for “simplicity”. 

The French Inter-Ministerial Delegate for Major Sports Events (DIGES) accounts for the security-based policing strategy on a woefully inaccurate view of the Hillsborough disaster – that it was caused by hooliganism. That UEFA were unaware of the nature of the policing operation is wholly unacceptable

There was no crowd modelling and the effect of multiple different checks was not adequately factored in. They were obvious to any safety expert, yet were entirely missed by UEFA, FFF and the police. 

UEFA presented to the Senate a completely misleading view of what it knew of safety problems at previous events at Stade de France. This was unacceptable. 

Transport networks were involved in planning meetings, but fundamentally FFF, police, and UEFA should have ensured that travel to the stadium, last kilometre mobility and access were safe, were. Failures in communication were down to them.

The police has not conceded that it failed to protect supporters from street crime or failed to prevent local youths challenging access points, and it has not retracted its use of tear gas or pepper spray. 

The service provision for disabled supporters fell far short of what should reasonably have been expected. UEFA failed to adequately ensure the event met its obligations toward disabled supporters.

No measures were taken to relieve community tension which was foreseeable, for example meeting with community leaders, there were insufficient police resources to deal with the problems and contingencies to prevent the problems continuing.

FFF failed to obtain or prepare a venue risk assessment, or to share a proper operational plan with partners.

The policing model was inappropriately focused on public order and not safety, security and service, based on engagement with supporters and local communities.

UEFA, as event owner, bear primary responsibility for failures that almost led to disaster

it is not open to UEFA to avoid accountability by attributing blame to others: the supporters, transport networks, police, or FFF. There was contributory fault from other stakeholders, but UEFA were at the wheel.

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