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

France’s sports minister said on Monday that Liverpool fans without valid tickets were responsible for early crowd problems in the Champions League final, with the problem later exacerbated by local youngsters trying to force their way into the match. Crowd disturbance at the match in Paris became a political issue ahead of French legislative elections in mid-June, and the sports ministry was due to meet with police and football officials later on Monday.

Some far-right politicians like Eric Zemmour have said the crowd problems in Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid were mainly caused by young locals from the nearby suburb of Seine Saint-Denis. “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” said French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castera.

“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.

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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. 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.” The chaotic scenes have been branded a national embarrassment in France, which is due to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

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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