Sportsmail can today reveal that French authorities blocked attempts to portray an accurate picture of what was behind the Champions League final chaos as part of what has been a ‘politically motivated cover-up’ that ‘reaches high levels of government’.
An investigation by this newspaper has learned that UEFA officials wanted to issue a statement before the end of Liverpool’s delayed clash with Real Madrid to highlight the role of local thugs in the carnage which saw fans including women and children indiscriminately tear-gassed before the Paris showpiece.
European football’s governing body, however, was ordered to remove any such reference as French authorities instead sought to pile the blame solely on Liverpool supporters.
The revelations come 24 hours after a report commissioned by the French prime minister found that Liverpool fans were not to blame.
Over 30 pages, significant failures with crowd management, a lack of information on entry points and a ‘failure to read warning signs of the presence of malicious individuals who came in large numbers to commit acts of delinquency’ were instead listed as the main contributing factors that led to ‘a climate of tension’.
It emerged on Friday that sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera had written to Liverpool to apologise to fans. However, she insisted fake tickets were the ‘primary cause’. The report will increase pressure on the government for a full apology. It was also disclosed that after vital CCTV footage from the Stade de France was wiped, footage from Metro lines had also been erased.
Liverpool fans were tear-gassed by French police ahead of the Champions League final in Paris
French authorities blocked attempts to portray an accurate picture of the chaos at the match
Meanwhile, sources in France also claimed:
- The proximity of this weekend’s key elections – a political timebomb – influenced the government’s narrative;
- Police ‘planned for a war and not a football match’;
- Warnings about the threat of local gangs were ‘ignored’;
- Fans were left to fend for themselves after the match amid horrendous attacks by organised crime gangs after cops left the area before the final whistle.
Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera (pictured) has written to Liverpool to apologise to fans
With kick-off approaching on May 28 and thousands left outside due to what has been described by insiders who were close to the control room as a ‘shambolic logistical operation’, a message went on the scoreboard that kick-off would be delayed because of the late arrival of fans.
UEFA were acting on information provided by stadium authorities but it rapidly became clear that the arrival of ticketless locals – many of whom jumped the fence to gain access to the ground – triggered panic, with riot police reaching for their canisters of pepper spray.
A further statement, prepared during the match amid outrage from those present who had witnessed the scenes, highlighted the presence of gangs as an aggravating factor which led to the use of tear gas.
But it is understood French officials demanded the reference be removed and continued with their attacks on Liverpool fans.
‘The whole thing was an avoidable mess,’ one well-placed insider explained. ‘You had riot police there ready to deal with English hooligans from the 1980s. They prepared for war, not a football match.’
Officers deployed tear gas on supporters outside the Stade de France in an ‘avoidable mess’
This weekend, France goes to the polls in parliamentary elections for the first time since President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected in April and insiders say a ‘political trap’ was at the forefront of the messaging that came out of the Stade de France – with a conservative head of state under fire from the right and the left.
Some politicians this newspaper spoke to believe that Liverpool fans were scapegoated because the governing party was concerned that any highlighting of the role played by predominantly North African and illegal immigrants would be seized upon by the left as evidence of racism and would go against them at the polls, with the left-wing New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) party poised to challenge amid concerns Macron’s La Republique En Marche party could be left without a majority in parliament.
There is also the belief that the government could not be seen to have lost control of the Saint-Denis area by right-wing voters, where it is suspected that the numbers of illegal immigrants are much higher than officials are admitting. Indeed, a large percentage of those who were arrested on the evening were illegal immigrants who did not have any identifying papers.
Michel Savin, from centre-right party Les Republicans (REP), echoed the report’s findings. ‘What is certain is that Liverpool fans are not solely responsible for what happened,’ he said. ‘We must stop presenting untruths.
France will go to the polls this weekend for the first time since President Macron’s re-election
Some politicians Sportsmail has spoken to believe that Liverpool fans were scapegoated
‘It seemed less dangerous to create a quasi-diplomatic incident with the UK by unfairly pointing the finger at Liverpool fans, rather than pointing the finger at the real troublemakers.’
His views were shared by fellow senator and REP member Jacqueline Eustache-Brinio.
‘The government does not want to upset part of an electorate that it needs, which explains its denial of reality,’ she said. Eustache-Brinio called on interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who was first to voice the fake ticket theory which was this week claimed as his own by head of Paris police Didier Lallement, to say sorry, a call which will grow louder following the publication of the report.
‘Mr Darmanin must apologise not only to Liverpool and its supporters but also to the Spaniards and to the French. He should have done it on the night.’
Head of Paris police Didier Lallement has claimed the fake ticket theory as his own this week
Linda Buquet, from the police officers’ union Synergie, said that warnings of the dangers posed by local gangs were made clear ahead of the match but ignored.
‘All of the organisation managers should have had better security inside and all around the Stade de France,’ she said. ‘Intelligence police gave the alert but nobody wanted to listen to them. We don’t know why. Except for a few drunk supporters, there were no incidents with Liverpool fans as far as we know.’
That was the experience of Pierre Barthelemy, a Paris lawyer who was there on the evening in his role on the board of fans group Football Supporters Europe.
‘We got there three hours before kick-off and we could see the Liverpool fans were only going in via one entrance and nobody was telling them otherwise,’ he said.
The fiasco has been described as a ‘massive failure’ by the authorities, leaving fans concerned
‘Nobody showed them where to go. Some of them had to sit down and catch their breath after being involved in a crush. It was really insane. We walked to other access points which were empty.
‘It was a massive failure by the authorities. It’s impossible to say 40,000 came with fake tickets. Where did they go? Did they vanish?’ Barthelemy thinks that, as the Mail on Sunday reported, only the experience of Hillsborough among Liverpool fans averted tragedy. ‘We were amazed by their behaviour,’ he said.
‘They waited patiently for hours and hours in a very dangerous situation without any information. Nobody was violent. I have never seen this before – a miracle. I think it’s because it was Liverpool and because of what happened in the Eighties.’
UEFA, who say around 2,800 fake tickets were scanned on the night, have launched a review into the matter over which Liverpool, who have taken more than 9,000 harrowing witness accounts from fans, are understood to have serious concerns, although they have welcomed the report.
UEFA have launched an investigation into the incidents, with Paris now firmly under scrutiny
The fiasco has also raised serious questions over Paris’s ability to host high-profile sporting events. Paris Olympics 2024 officials were dismayed by what they saw but are privately confident there will be no repeat in two years’ time.
It can be disclosed that only earlier this week Paris 2024 put out to tender a contract to provide an army of 20,000 private security staff, many of whom will patrol Stade de France which will be the main Olympic stadium.
This was always part of the plan and was not triggered by the shambolic scenes at the final – but it now looks like a very smart move.
UEFA, the French Football Federation and French Police declined to comment.
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