A huge contingent of fans made the trip to Paris for last month’s final with Real Madrid, which saw Jurgen Klopp’s side lose 1-0. But prior to kick-off at the Stade de France, fans were subjected to antiquated policing methods, which saw spectators cattled into narrow gangways risking dangerous crushes and tear gas used on innocent bystanders.
And it has now been revealed that riot police were deployed by the French authorities due to a misconceived link between hooliganism and the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. The Guardian has obtained an official report that was produced for prime minister Emmanuel Macron, confirming that innocent fans were forced to withstand heavy-handed treatment likely informed by a prejudice going into the event.
The report by Michael Cadot, the French sports ministry’s delegate on major sporting events, refers to a section on police intelligence going into the fixture, which made reference to the disaster which cost 97 supporters their lives.
The section initially recognises that Liverpool fans have not been known for violence for matches, but adds: “Reference to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 – 97 deaths – for which the responsibility of the [police] was pointed out, led however to the drawing up of a firm policing arrangement, to maintain order in riot gear, in order to be able to respond to a risk of collective phenomena of hooliganism and havoc, as had happened in Marseilles on 13 June 2016 during the England-Russia game.”
Families of the victims have fought for justice since the incident, with a 2016 inquiry jury determining that the 97 were unlawfully killed due to gross negligence and manslaughter by the South Yorkshire Police officer in command Ch Supt David Duckenfield.
It was also determined that there was no hooliganism, ticketlessness or any fan misbehaviour that contributed to the disaster. Nevertheless, Steve Rotherham, who witnessed the chaos outside the stadium and was a victim of a robbery himself, said that their suspicions on police drawing links between the two events, had now been confirmed.
He said: “This is described as intelligence but it displays a lack of intelligence and confirms our worst fears. The appalling policing and crowd mismanagement in Paris was based on a falsehood, ignorance and prejudice. This again underlines the need for a full, thorough, independent investigation.”
The last chair of the Hillsborough Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year old son James back in 1989, adds: “This confirms our worst suspicions that a completely false view of what happened at Hillsborough has informed a police force in another country.
“It shows the power of the lies that were told by the police in this country, that are still believed and repeated by far too many people. Football stadiums and policing were made much safer after the disaster, and all football supporters should understand that.”
AFP via Getty Images)
Uefa have thus far not offered a comment on the new report, but did apologise to both sets of fans earlier this month. Their statement from June 3 read: “UEFA wishes to sincerely apologise to all spectators who had to experience or witness frightening and distressing events in the build-up to the UEFA Champions League final at the Stade de France on 28 May 2022 in Paris, on a night, which should have been a celebration of European club football. No football fan should be put in that situation, and it must not happen again.
“To that end, immediately after the events, UEFA commissioned an Independent Review to identify shortcomings and responsibilities of all entities involved in the organisation of the final, and has today published the Terms of Reference for this review.”