PARIS (Reuters) -Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram told the French Senate on Thursday how the Champions League soccer final became a “nightmare” as France continued its probe into disorder at the match and it emerged that key CCTV footage had been deleted. The May 28 final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, was delayed after […]
Paris Champions League final was ‘nightmare’ for Liverpool mayor, CCTV evidence lost
PARIS (Reuters) -Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram told the French Senate on Thursday how the Champions League soccer final became a “nightmare” as France continued its probe into disorder at the match and it emerged that key CCTV footage had been deleted.
The May 28 final, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, was delayed after police officers forcefully held back people trying to enter the ground. Riot police sprayed tear gas on fans, including women and children.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said large numbers of Liverpool fans turning up without valid tickets caused a crowd crush at Paris’s Stade de France, but that has been denied by Liverpool officials and supporters.
Rotheram said problems began as fans arrived at the ground, only to find routes blocked off by police vans.
This contributed to a crowd build-up that got so bad that people had to climb over grills to get into the ground – which in turn attracted local criminals who sought to take advantage of the chaos by pickpocketing people, said Rotheram, who said he was robbed of his possessions during the evening.
“The day gradually transformed from a dream into a nightmare,” Rotheram told the Senate via videolink.
Erwan Le Prevost, from the French Football Federation (FFF), said “violent” video footage from the evening had been deleted and was no longer available.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement had told the Senate he might have been wrong when he said up to 40,000 Liverpool fans tried to enter the final with fake tickets, and that there was no scientific evidence to support the claim.
Lallement said police tactics at the match were a “failure” because fans were harmed and the image of France was degraded, and Rotheram criticised police for seeking confrontation and lashing out at fans with their batons.
“I saw police who were, in a way, looking to find a problem,” said Rotheram.
The crowd trouble has caused a political headache for President Emmanuel Macron’s minister Darmanin since France is hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympics, although the government says Darmanin has the backing of Macron.
It has also caused diplomatic tensions between Britain and France, with Darmanin sticking to his line that large numbers of Liverpool fans without valid tickets contributed to the problems. Liverpool have said the majority of their fans were well-behaved but were treated roughly by French police.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his disappointment at how Liverpool fans were treated, while European soccer’s governing body UEFA has commissioned an independent report into the trouble.
Yann Bastiere, a senior official with the Unite SGP Police union, told Reuters his colleagues had not reported problems with Liverpool fans but instead had to tackle local criminals.
Darmanin has defended the police tactics, including the use of tear gas, saying they prevented deaths, but Rotheram criticised them.
“Indiscriminate use of tear gas, that is not how you control a crowd, on the contrary that is how you lose control of the crowd,” he said.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Tassilo Hummel; Additional reporting by Manuel Ausloos,Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)