'We will not let this lie' - Liverpool and Madrid fans still 'fighting for justice' after Champions League final debacle

Liverpool fans 2022 Champions League final Paris GFXGetty/GOAL

More than a month may have passed since the Champions League final, but the fallout continues.

And as Liverpool and Real Madrid fans wait for answers and apologies, both UEFA and the French authorities remain firmly under the spotlight.

Rightly so, too.

The chaos of the Stade de France, where supporters were tear gassed by police, held for hours in dangerous crushes outside the stadium and then subjected to attacks and muggings at the hands of unpoliced gangs of local youths, overshadowed European club football’s showpiece occasion, and requires an explanation as well as accountability.

UEFA’s independent review is under way. Chaired by Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, the former Portuguese minister of education, it says it will produce its preliminary findings at the end of September, ahead of the publication of a full report in November.

The French senate, meanwhile, has launched its own investigation into events in Paris on May 28, with its public report due to be released later this month.

The prospect of a full parliamentary inquiry, which would require witnesses to testify under oath and carry the threat of prosecution for those found to be liable, also looms.

“That’s what needs to happen,” Joe Blott, chair of Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool supporters’ union, tells GOAL

“Apologies are one thing, but an apology needs to come with action, and that action is a full parliamentary inquiry, and a retraction of the lies which were stated so publicly, even before a ball had been kicked in Paris.”

In France, the scrutiny is falling on police and politicians, in particular interior minister Gerald Darmanin, whose propaganda campaign against Liverpool supporters has caused such anger and distress.

Darmanin’s appearance in front of the senate on June 1, in which he claimed that fans had arrived late and under the influence of alcohol, and that as many as 40,000 had attempted to gain access to the stadium without a valid ticket, drew widespread condemnation, and was dismissed this week as “bullsh*t” by Francois-Noel Buffet, one of the co-chairs of the senate’s inquiry.

“The major problem comes from the minister of the interior, who lied,” Buffet told Le Progres. “That is what sparked the fire.

“If he had admitted to mistakes and apologised, there would have been no huge controversy.”

Darmanin did issue an apology of sorts last week, telling French radio station RTL that the situation should have been “managed better” and that he was “partly responsible” for what had happened. 

UEFA, too, has big questions to answer.

It was they, after all, who falsely communicated that kick-off in Paris had been delayed due to “the late arrival of fans”, and it’s CEO of events, Martin Kallen, has continued to make unsubstantiated claims of fake tickets, ticketless supporters and poor behaviour outside the stadium, all of which are contradicted by video footage and contemporary witness accounts.

“We could write a whole book about UEFA’s follies,” says Blott. “This year alone, we’ve had problems in Milan, in Lisbon and in Villarreal, before we even got to Paris.

“These are UEFA events. They’re the ones who should be making sure that everything is in order, and that people are able to attend safely.”

Blott was one of a number of fan representatives to give evidence before the French senate last month, accusing the authorities of treating supporters like hooligans during a two-hour hearing at Paris’ Luxembourg Palace.

Ted Morris, the chairman of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, gave a powerful speech in which he described the final as “the worst experience of his life” and said his “vision of Paris” had changed, while Emilio Dumas, a Real Madrid socio of more than 30 years, detailed Spanish fans’ ordeals, making a mockery of Darmanin and UEFA’s claims that only Liverpool supporters had experienced issues.

“That was huge,” says Blott. “It was one of those moments where your heart is in your mouth, to be honest.

"Ted and I had given our statements, and we were sat there thinking ‘What happens if Emilio says something completely different now?’

“But Real Madrid fans had incredibly similar difficulties. They were tear-gassed, they were targeted by pickpockets and muggers, they were left fearing for their safety at a football match.

"Emilio was outstanding in explaining that, and in exposing some of the falsehoods pushed by UEFA and the authorities.”

Liverpool and Real Madrid have liaised closely since the final. Both recommended Kenny Scott, a former police chief superintendent who served as UEFA’s head of safety and security operations between 2017 and 2021, as one of the lead experts on Dr Brandao Rodrigues' investigation panel. 

Both are also understood to be encouraged by the fact that fan representatives such as Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the UK Football Supporters Association, Emilio Abejon, general secretary of FASFE, Spain’s national football supporters organisation, and Ronan Evain, the executive director of Football Supporters Europe, will be consulted during UEFA’s review.

The hope is for, as Blott calls it, “a thorough and transparent process”, one which will not only vindicate supporters, but ensure that the same organisational and safety errors are not repeated at future events.

“We’re fighting for justice for Liverpool and Real Madrid fans,” Blott adds. “But the changes we are fighting for? They are for all football fans. 

“Every fan that goes to a Champions League game, a Europa League or Conference League game, a European Championships or a Nations League match, they need to feel safe.

"They need to know that they can travel to a game and enjoy themselves without UEFA and the authorities messing it up for them.”

He adds: “I think they’ve been taken aback that we are still at this, more than a month later. 

“I think with two different clubs, it might have finished on the Tuesday after the game. But trust me, we will not let this lie. It’s not going away. It’s up to those responsible to provide the answers.”