PARIS: A senior UEFA official said on Tuesday he did not believe French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin’s claims about the number of counterfeit tickets in circulation during the chaotic scenes ahead of the Champions League final in last month between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
After the 28 May match, Darmanin claimed that between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool supporters came to Paris without tickets or with fake tickets.
The minister claimed that this was the cause of the problems as the police funneled thousands of fans through tight checkpoints and left them standing in underpasses around the stadium or at locked stadium gates, resulting in delayed kick-off by more than 30 minutes.
Martin Kallen, chief executive of UEFA Events, which is in charge of the body’s commercial events, told a hearing at the French Senate, which is investigating the incidents, that the figure was much lower.
“We know there were approximately 2,600 tickets taken from the turnstiles that were fake,” Kellen said.
“But a lot of tickets haven’t arrived at the turnstiles… How many? We don’t know, we can’t really check.
“We don’t think that’s the number mentioned in France, which was more or less 30,000 to 40,000,” he added.
Keller said other factors had caused the problems at the Stade de France, in a chaos that saw French police use tear gas at close range, even against children.
“It wasn’t just the paper tickets that created chaos outside the gates,” he said.
“The reasons are many: a transport strike, a bad reaction from the stewards, the police, there were criminals and an extremely large flow of people in front of the stadium without tickets or with fake tickets,” he said. he adds.
– “A major disaster averted” –
A Liverpool fan told the Senate committee he was caught in “chaotic” scenes as French police sprayed tear gas at wheelchair-bound supporters.
Ted Morris, chairman of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, described how he and his wife were pushed by stewards and sprayed with tear gas.
He said Liverpool supporters lifted a person in a wheelchair over the gates to safety.
He said: “She was lifted by Liverpool fans above the gates because the stewards refused to open the gates for her. Once outside she was sprayed with tear gas as she stood went to the station.”
Morris added: “A major disaster was averted. No power could come to the aid of the disabled supporters.”
He said Liverpool supporters were furious at claims by the French interior minister that the problems were not caused by inadequate policing, but because the club’s supporters had tens of thousands of counterfeit tickets.
He said: “With my wife, we love France and Paris, but you, Mr Darmanin, you lied and I ask you to withdraw your accusation. And if you have the decency to do so, I hope you have the decency to resign. “
Joe Blott, chairman of the Spirit of Shankly supporters group, told the hearing that with France set to host the Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics within the next two years, only a “survey fully independent and transparent” would restore people’s trust. “in France’s ability to organize world sporting events”.
UEFA has launched its own investigation, overseen by a former Portuguese education and sport minister, which Kellen says will present its findings in September.
“We thought the investigation would take at least two to three months,” Kallen said.
Real Madrid won the final 1-0 to become European champions for the 14th time.