LONDON — Treatment of fans at the Champions League final in Paris “constituted criminal assault”, according to an independent report chaired by Professor Phil Scraton, who also led an investigation into the Hillsbrough disaster.
The final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France was delayed by more than half an hour as supporters struggled to get through bottlenecks accessing the ground and were repelled by teargas fired by French police.
A French Senate enquiry in July blamed a lack of preparation by French authorities and competition organisers Uefa, as well as poorly-executed security arrangements for the chaos that ensued.
For many Liverpool fans the scenes brought back memories of a crush at Hillsbrough in 1989 that resulted in the fatality of 97 supporters.
The report found that the experience of Hillsbrough led to collective action from Liverpool fans to avert a tragedy with no lives lost in the French capital.
“Persistent, random police assaults on fans, and unprovoked deployment of tear gas on men, women and children trapped in confined spaces, was reckless and dangerous. It constituted criminal assault,” the report stated.
“Sustained failure in crowd management severely compromised the health and well-being of fans.
“It is clear from fans’ statements that they were put at risk by aggressive policing, ineffectual safety measures and a failure to implement comprehensive stadium safety management plans based on risk management principles.”
Paris was awarded the final in February after Uefa stripped St Petersburg of hosting rights due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Stade de France is due to host events at next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games.
Fans were also preyed upon in violent attacks leaving the stadium by local gangs.
“It is difficult to comprehend the sequence of events that constituted the debacle in Paris, leaving so many people physically injured, psychologically harmed and financially compromised,” said Scraton, a law professor at Queen’s University Belfast.
“Men, women and children were subjected to unprovoked, indiscriminate police violence including tear gas and baton assaults, together with robbery at knife-point by local gangs.”
Uefa’s own independent report into the organisational failings at the final is due next month. — AFP