Fake tickets on ‘industrial scale’ caused Paris chaos, says French minister

France’s interior minister has said he regrets the “disorganised welcome” Liverpool fans received at the Champions league final on Saturday but blamed counterfeit ticket sales on an “industrial scale” for chaotic scenes at the Stade de France.

“We deplore a lack of organisation in the way the English fans were received,” Gérald Darmanin told a press conference on Monday. But he said 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans had turned up for the game either without tickets or with counterfeits.

As a Downing St spokesperson described the scenes on Saturday as “deeply upsetting and concerning” and urged a full investigation, Darmanin said the fact that Liverpool supporters had been issued with paper rather than digital tickets had enabled “massive, industrial-scale and organised fraud with fake tickets”.

About 70% of tickets presented by about 62,000 Liverpool fans were fake, the French interior minister said, and whereas 97% of Real Madrid fans had made it to their seats by the original 9pm kick-off time, only 50% of Liverpool supporters had reached their stands by then.

“Manifestly, this kind of incident only seems to happen with certain English clubs,” Darmanin said, noting that there had been difficulties at the Liverpool-Tottenham Champions League final in Madrid in 2019 and at matches at Wembley.

The match finally kicked off 36 minutes late, with some ticket holders complaining they were not let in. Darmanin acknowledged police had been caught off-guard by about 300-400 local youths who turned up to cause trouble, but said France had only had three months to prepare after the game was moved from St Petersburg.

Television footage showed images of young men, who did not appear to be wearing Liverpool colours, climbing over the stadium fences and jumping inside. Other fans outside, including families with children, were teargassed by riot police. Liverpool’s chief executive, Billy Hogan, said the treatment of fans was “unacceptable”.

France’s sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, said the French government had requested “a very thorough investigation by Uefa into what happened, how and why it happened”. The governing body had agreed to undertake an inquiry, she said.

Oudéa-Castéra said France recognised “we have to improve on the organisation of these tricky matches”, including through better management of fan flows from local stations to the stadium, filtering and digital ticketing.

The minister, speaking after a meeting with officials and representatives from the police, local and regional government, Uefa, the French football federation and stadium management, earlier told French radio the problems had been exacerbated by a shortage of stewards and over-tight checkpoints outside the venue precinct.

She also said Liverpool should bear some responsibility, alleging that Real Madrid “organised their travelling supporters’ arrival with chartered coaches, in contrast with Liverpool, which left its supporters to their own devices”.

Johnson’s spokesman said: “We know many Liverpool fans travelled to Paris in good time to support their team in one of the biggest matches of the season, and we’re hugely disappointed at how they were treated. Fans deserve to know what happened, so we’re urging Uefa to work closely with the French authorities on a full investigation, and to publish its findings.”

The spokesman said No 10 disagreed with arguments Liverpool fans were responsible by arriving late. “We’ve obviously seen reports since Saturday of fans who were given authorised tickets from the club and not able to gain entry to the stadium,” he said.

Liverpool fans stuck outside the Stade de France show their match tickets.
Liverpool fans stuck outside the Stade de France show their match tickets. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

“We’ve seen statements from Uefa which also claim the delay to kick-off was caused by the late arrival of fans. That doesn’t chime with the experience of many of those standing outside the stadium.”

Uefa’s official statement made no mention of supporters coming late and it is understood it did not provide a big-screen message in the stadium attributing the kick-off delay to “the late arrival of fans”. The message was changed to explain that a “security issue” was behind the late start.

French media and commentators have branded the scenes a national embarrassment with France due to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games. Oudéa-Castéra said she remained confident in France’s ability to stage major events, noting that the Stade de France had successfully hosted countless full-capacity football and rugby internationals, athletics competitions and rock concerts since its opening in 1998 without serious incident.

Ronan Evain of the Football Supporters Europe association, which is accredited as an observer at Uefa matches, said the organisation had been “inflexible”, arguing that “France’s approach in terms of supporter management has always focused on show of force, far behind the rest of Europe”.

The chief of Paris police, Didier Lallement, said in a report there had been “significant shortcomings” in the way the organisers managed the Liverpool supporters.

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He also blamed the problems partly on a strike on one of the two RER urban rail lines that run from Paris to the stadium and conceded there had been too few police at the stadium, suggesting 18 units would have been preferable to the 10 on duty.

The police chief’s report, cited in French media, said the use of teargas was “regrettably necessary” at some points to “maintain the stadium’s impermeability”, although he apologised “wholeheartedly” for “the discomfort many spectators may have experienced”.