France hold emergency meeting after chaos in Champions League final blamed on Liverpool

The French government called an emergency meeting on Monday after crowd trouble marred last weekend’s Champions League soccer final, which the French sports minister said was initially caused by fans from Liverpool who showed up without valid tickets.

“We must take all the necessary measures so that this does not happen again,” said French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castera at the start of the meeting.

Crowd disturbance at the game in Paris has become a political issue ahead of France’s legislative elections in mid-June, and with France due to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

“The images are lamentable, they are disturbing because we can clearly see that we are not prepared for events like the Olympics,” far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said on Sunday, while his rival extreme right Marine Le Pen called the incident a “humiliation” for France.

Far-right politician Eric Zemmour had also said the problems were mainly caused by young locals from the nearby Paris Seine Saint Denis district, rather than Liverpool fans.

Oudea-Castera said Liverpool fans without valid tickets were responsible for the initial crowd problems in the Champions League final, with the problem later exacerbated by local youngsters trying to force their way into the game.

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“What you really have to bear in mind is that what happened in the first place was this massive gathering of British supporters of the Liverpool club, without tickets, or with fake tickets” , Oudea-Castera told RTL radio on Monday.

“When there are so many people at the entrance to the stadium, there will be people who will try to force the doors of the Stade de France, and a number of young people from the surrounding area who were present tried to enter. mingling with the crowd,” she told French radio RTL.

The match had to be delayed for 35 minutes after police tried to hold back people trying to force their way into the National Stadium without tickets, while some ticket holders complained they were denied entry.

Television footage showed images of young men who did not appear to be wearing red Liverpool shirts jumping the stadium gates and fleeing security to enter the game. Others outside, including children, were gassed by riot police, a Reuters witness said.

Read also : Liverpool fans caused initial problems in Champions League final, says French minister

Chris Philp, Britain’s technology minister, said he was shocked by the footage.

“I was horrified to see these pictures of fans, including children, disabled supporters, pepper sprayed by French police,” he added. “And from the photos I saw, there was no obvious justification for this kind of behavior.”

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan has said the club want a “transparent investigation” from governing body UEFA. UK Sports Minister Nadine Dorries has also urged UEFA to investigate.

Oudea-Castera said there were no problems with Real Madrid fans during Saturday’s game and the Spanish side managed to control their traveling supporters better than Liverpool.

She added that France must nevertheless consider stepping up security at high-risk football matches, with new problems erupting on Sunday following Saint-Etienne’s relegation from the French Ligue 1.

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