France apologizes for chaos at Champions League final

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France apologizes for chaos at Champions League final

The French government apologized to fans for the chaos that marred Saturday's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Paris, reported DW, quoting news agencies AFP, AP, dpa and Reuters.

In an about-turn, the French government said it was "sad and sorry" that 2,700 mostly Liverpool fans missed out on the final. France had initially blamed fans and counterfeiters for chaos at the stadium.

"Could we have done things better or could it have been better handled? Yes,'' French government spokesperson Olivia Gregoire said on Wednesday. "Were there wounded, a tragedy? No. Can we improve things for future sporting events? Certainly."

Thousands of Liverpool supporters with tickets struggled to enter the stadium, and police responded with tear gas. Gregoire confirmed that 2,700 supporters had been unable to watch the match due to the chaos.

"The president of the republic [Emmanuel Macron] and all his government are sad and sorry for these people who lost out," Gregoire said after a cabinet meeting.

Fans leaving after the match, even later at night than expected given the delayed start, had also complained that the same police officers who had been liberally using tear gas before kick-off were suddenly nowhere to be found. Multiple reports of theft and violence, seemingly perpetrated by local gangs of youths in the Saint-Denis suburb targeting the visitors, poured in in the aftermath.

Macron urges 'full transparency'

The apology comes after French authorities initially blamed fans and counterfeiters for trouble outside the Stade de France.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters on Monday that police officers had "prevented deaths" at the game.

Darmanin claimed that fake tickets were a huge problem at the match, blaming Liverpool's request for paper tickets over electronic ones for this. He said that this made it more difficult for officials to identify fake tickets.

He had also said that between 30,000 and 40,000 counterfeit tickets had been identified by authorities at the gates, a claim that many observers said seemed as improbable as it was unknowable. Liverpool was allocated considerably fewer valid tickets than this for the match for its fans, with most of the roughly 80,000 capacity crowd in the neutral and corporate section of the stands.

French media reported that Macron was angry with Darmanin for blaming Liverpool supporters.

When asked about this, Gregoire said, "What the president wants… is that light is shone on what really happened, in full transparency, and very quickly," she said that Darmanin had Macron's "full confidence" as interior minister.

One British fan arrested for violence

On Wednesday, Darmanin told the French Senate that one British fan was arrested for violence, among 14 British people arrested over the trouble at the match.

Liverpool said it has already collected more than 5,000 testimonies from supporters who traveled to France to attend the final.

"[We are] horrified by the way some men, women, children, able-bodied, less able-bodied, have been indiscriminately treated," Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said.

The crowded long queues at the stadium entry and the chaos generated was of particular significance to Liverpool supporters, given the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 when 97 supporters died as a result of a human crush during an FA cup semi-final. In that instance, British authorities and the press for years blamed the deaths squarely on Liverpool supporters and their alleged misbehavior.

Almost a quarter of a century later, a government-commissioned report absolved the fans of almost all blame and instead uncovered evidence of a cover-up among police, politicians and the press.

Some Liverpool figures, including former player Jason McAteer, who said his wife was mugged and his son beaten up for trying to defend her as they left the stadium, argued that it was only Liverpool fans' memories of this tragedy that prevented the crowd trouble from getting truly out of hand at the weekend.

France apologizes for chaos at Champions League final

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