An independent review panel commissioned by UEFA to investigate the 2022 Champions League Final has found that European soccer’s governing body bears “primary responsibility” for the failures of organization that caused chaos and safety risks outside the Stade de France in Paris, the report released on Monday said.
The panel agreed the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid last May was a “near-miss: a term when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe” and identified failures by UEFA, exacerbated by missteps by Parisian Préfecture de Police and the French Football Federation (FFF).
“The UEFA ‘model’ for organising the UCLF22 was defective in that there was an absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security … UEFA should have retained a monitoring and oversight role, to ensure it all worked,” the report said.
The match on May 28 of last year was delayed by more than 35 minutes after Liverpool fans struggled to enter the Stade de France and tear gas was used by French police towards supporters held in tightly packed areas.
In addition to UEFA, the review apportioned blame to the police for the unjustified “use of tear gas and pepper spray.”
According to the report, “The police, unchallenged and accepted without question by other stakeholders, adopted a model aimed at a non-existent threat from football hooligans, together with a preoccupation that ticketless supporters required a public order policing approach rather than one based upon facilities and engagement.”
“The failures of this approach culminated in a policing operation that deployed tear gas and pepper spray: weaponry which has no place at a festival of football,” the report added.
Poor guidance by the FFF to UEFA Events SA was also identified as having “contributed to the failures on match day,” according to the report.
CNN has reached out to the FFF, the Préfecture de Police and the French government for comment but did not immediately get a response.
The panel was headed by Dr. Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – a member of the Portuguese Parliament and the President of the Parliamentary Committee of Environment and Energy – “on a pro bono basis” to “guarantee his independent status in the process.”
The panel found that “assertions regarding huge numbers of ticketless supporters, and those with fake tickets, have been wrongly inflated and have been stated as fact, to deflect responsibility for the planning and operational failures of stakeholders,” and described that deflection from UEFA, UEFA Events SA, the FFF, the Préfecture de Police and French ministers as “reprehensible.”
In June, the Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement admitted that the chaos at the Stade de France was “obviously a failure” and said he took “full responsibility for police management” of the event.
The review also stated that the similarities between events in Paris last May and the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 football supporters lost their lives, were “palpable” – especially given that in that instance, fans were blamed initially by authorities before judicial reviews found failures of policing to be at fault, and that fan behavior did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.
Responding to the report, Liverpool issued a statement on Tuesday saying: “Liverpool FC welcomes the Report into the chaos at the UEFA Champions League final in Paris which fully vindicates Liverpool fans while finding UEFA primarily responsible for organisational failings, absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security, poor planning and lack of contingency plan.
“It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many. But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering. Our thoughts go out to all our fans who have suffered as a result of Paris and we would remind them of the mental health support we put in place in the days following the disaster that was the UEFA Champions League final in Paris.”
“As a football club with (a) proud history in Europe, we call on UEFA to do the right thing and implement the 21 recommendations to ensure the safety of all football supporters attending any future UEFA football match,” the Premier League club added.
Commenting on the report, UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis said in a statement released on Monday, “On behalf of UEFA, I would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded on what should have been a celebration at the pinnacle of the club season.
“In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool FC for the experiences many of them had when attending the game and for the messages released prior to and during the game which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.
“UEFA is committed to learning from the events of 28 May, and will cooperate closely with supporters’ groups, the finalist clubs, the host associations and local authorities in order to deliver outstanding finals where everyone can enjoy the game in a safe, secure and welcoming environment,” Theodoridis added.