French authorities have blamed fans and counterfeiters for trouble outside the Stade de France on Saturday evening ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, reported DW, quoting news agencies AP, AFP and Reuters.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters on Monday that police officers had "prevented deaths" at the game, in the face of criticism from Liverpool fans and British politicians for indiscriminate use of pepper spray on large crowds of fans.
What did French authorities say about the Champions League final?
The media conference did not feature an apology, with the Interior and Sports ministers sticking to the line that fan behavior was the main issue.
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. According to Darmanin, who did not explain how he had this data, "70% of the tickets presented at pre-screening" were counterfeit, and 15% of those at the second checks were still fake.
He also criticized Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for urging Liverpool fans to travel without tickets.
"I remind you that the Liverpool coach several days ago — and it's public — called on supporters to come to France even without a ticket," Darmanin said. Klopp had said, "I think Paris is big enough to go there without a ticket and have a good time. Behave yourself but be in the best mood possible."
In the end, the minister claimed that 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans traveled to Paris without a ticket or with fake tickets.
The minister claimed that police actions "prevented deaths," but acknowledged some police had misused pepper spray. Footage on social media had shown officers spraying children and other fans through fences.
Darmanin also sought to dismiss concerns about the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympics in France.
"The comparison with the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics seems to be rather disproportionate for me, given that obviously it is only with football, and singularly only with football and with certain English clubs, that there are these events," he told a press conference.
Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said at the same press conference that the authorities were "extremely sorry" for the 2,700 fans with genuine tickets who were unable to enter the stadium.
She also said the authorities would look to use electronic tickets in future, to try and fight ticket fraud. The event became a political issue in France, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen saying events were a "humiliation" and far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon saying the weekend brought into question France's ability to host big events.
Both Le Pen and Melenchon have long sought to make political capital from French police's often heavy-handed response to domestic protests in recent years.
Echoes of Hillsborough disaster
On Saturday Liverpool supporters complained of being caught in bottlenecks outside the ground, as extremely slow-moving crowds at the Liverpool end of the stadium meant there were lots of empty seats inside the stadium at kickoff time.
The match was delayed by 36 minutes as a result, but fans outside complained of being pepper sprayed and prevented from accessing the stadium.
British MP Ian Byrne told journalists that the game was mis-managed by police, a traumatic thing for fans who had experienced the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, when 97 Liverpool fans were killed in a crush.
"It was horrific — there's no other words to describe it. It was absolutely horrific and as someone who was at Hillsborough in 1989, it brought so many terrible memories flooding back," he said.
The UK government and several national newspapers had long blamed Liverpool supporters for that disaster, although a 2012 independent report commissioned by the government absolved supporters of any blame and instead pointed to a "lack of police control" at the gates and later concerted efforts to cover this up and feed false information to the press.