The Portuguese politician who chaired UEFA’s review of the chaos in the Champions League final has been criticized by supporters for his introduction of a controversial fan ID card aimed at tackling hooliganism . His department’s legal justification for the scheme included a reference to the Hillsborough disaster, which was also heavily criticized by supporters, as “in poor taste”.
The case of Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, who was the Portuguese education minister responsible for last season’s introduction of the “cartão do adepto”, a compulsory “fan card” which fans vehemently oppose, has raised further questions about his suitability to lead a review. UEFA insisted will be independent.
Further doubts about the review’s independence are raised by the appointment to assist Rodrigues of Kenny Scott, UEFA’s head of safety and security until last year. After his retirement, Scott, a highly respected former police officer from Strathclyde, continued to work in paid roles for UEFA as a matchday security guard, including the Nations League game between Sweden and Serbia on June 9. UEFA told the Guardian last month that another security expert, Steve Frosdick, who resigned in February, was “not suitable” for the independent review as he had previously worked for UEFA.
As well as the brutal conduct of the Paris riot police, a major focus of scrutiny will be UEFA’s planning and handling of the final at the Stade de France on May 28, including how the UEFA have come to blame Liverpool supporters for the chaos in two statements on the night, and why they have still not been recanted.
The Rodrigues supporter card has become a requirement for people in the parts of stadiums usually occupied by “ultra” vocal supporters. Aimed to tackle violence in the grounds and make it easier for fans to be banned, the map was widely boycotted, resulting in empty sections in the grounds, and opposed in a legal action funded by the crowd by Portugal’s national supporters’ association, APDA. It was largely scrapped last November after a few months, after a parliamentary vote against it.
In its response to the APDA’s legal action, the Department for Education justified designating particular areas of the stadiums to require a fan card by referring to the Hillsborough disaster. The ministry’s legal document gave an erroneous date for the 1989 disaster, saying: “Such isolation of areas is appropriate and necessary for security reasons, to avoid the occurrence of incidents resulting from overcrowding (see the tragedy of Hillsborough in 1986, where overcrowding in a stand resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans).
Martha Gens, the APDA chairwoman, said at the time it was ‘in bad taste’ to cite Hillsborough – where Liverpool supporters performed well but 97 were killed due to gross negligence of the police – to justify a measure aimed at “punishing and repressing” football fans. . She told the Guardian: “We found it appalling that the Ministry of Education, which runs sport in Portugal, referred to this disaster in its legal justification for a repressive policy. This showed that they lacked the necessary understanding of the relevant issues and they introduced a measure based on discrimination and the creation of ghettos inside the stadiums.
“When UEFA announced Rodrigues as review chairman, I couldn’t see how he was considered to have the expertise or the independence, or the understanding of the supporters, to take on such a role, especially since ‘it almost involved another disaster inflicted on Liverpool supporters.”
UEFA announced the review and appointed Rodrigues without consultation two days after the final, where thousands of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans were held for hours in static lines, gassed by riot police French and many were attacked by local thugs. UEFA publicly blamed ‘the late arrival of supporters’ for delaying kick-off, then issued a statement at the end of the match claiming the chaos had been caused by thousands of Liverpool fans having fake tickets . This has deeply offended supporters, who are pushing for a thorough and fully independent investigation.
Rodrigues previously worked closely in Portugal, including on the introduction of the fan card, with Tiago Craveiro, then chief executive of the Portuguese Football Federation, who in March this year became adviser to the UEFA president. , Aleksandr Ceferin. To questions raised on Rodrigues’ independence and suitability, UEFA said Rodrigues had the relevant expertise as he was the relevant minister when Portugal hosted the 2020 and 2021 Champions League finals which were displaced due to Covid. The first was played in an empty stadium; in the 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City, 16,500 fans were allowed to attend.
On July 1, Uefa announced that Scott and Frank Paauw, Amsterdam’s police chief, would be the “lead experts” on a panel with Rodrigues, dubbed an “independent group”. Five other experts and supporter representatives have been asked to ‘support the review’, although it is unclear how the process is expected to work.
Scott said that after leaving his full-time role at UEFA last March, he was retained on the UEFA list of security guards to work at individual matches, for which compensation is paid. He worked at Hampden Park for three of the European Championship matches last year, including Scotland’s 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic, and in Sweden’s game against Serbia on June 9 this year.
Scott said he could not comment on any aspect of the review or his independence, given his appointment.
In response to questions about how Scott could be considered independent, UEFA pointed out that he had been recommended by Liverpool and Real Madrid. That’s correct, although a Liverpool source said UEFA failed to inform the club that Scott had continued to work for UEFA.
Liverpool supporters’ trust, Spirit of Shankly (SOS), was also not told of Scott’s further work for UEFA, but had not recommended him for consideration anyway, in due to his former long-term managerial position at UEFA until last year. Joe Blott, chairman of SOS, said: “Any continued link to UEFA is a clear cause for concern and casts doubt on the independence of the investigation.
“We are also extremely concerned to find out that Tiago Brandão Rodrigues was the Portuguese Education Minister responsible for introducing the fan card. While fans in Portugal are best placed to understand all the implications, what concerns us the plus is that his government department referenced the Hillsborough tragedy in its justification for the scheme.It was insensitive and inappropriate.
“We urge UEFA to clarify the values and ethics of the investigation, and how it can be considered independent.”
In response to detailed questions from the Guardian about concerns surrounding the review, Rodrigues’ introduction of the fan card and Scott’s independence, UEFA said: “Mr Kenny Scott was proposed unsolicited by the two clubs and at no time did UEFA suggest his appointment.UEFA have previously indicated their intention not to comment further on the independent review until it reaches its conclusion. Rodrigues did not personally respond to questions from the Guardian.