By Samindra Kunti
June 10 – In a new revealing French senate session, Paris police chief Didier Lallement has admitted that the claim of 30,000-40,000 ticketless Liverpool fans at the European Cup final in Paris wasn’t based on any scientific reality, but he defended the use of teargas to disperse the fans.
With France’s pride and image at stake ahead of both the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games, the French senate investigation into the dangerous chaos at the Champions League final at the Stade de France continued yesterday (Thursday) with Lallement, Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram and the French FA (FFF) summoned to give their version of events.
Lallement said: “I observed with the greatest lucidity what happened at the Stade de France. It is obviously a failure. The image of the country has been shaken, people have been attacked. But the match was held and there were no serious injuries or deaths.”
“It was I who gave the figure of 30,000 to 40,000 people without tickets or with counterfeit tickets to the Minister of the Interior. It was I who saw it on the ground.”
“The figure has no scientific value but it came from feedback from police and public transport officials. Maybe I was wrong, but it was taken from all the information gathered.”
He went on to defend the use of teargas, insisting that it had saved lives. “I am fully aware that people acting in good faith, even families, were tear-gassed. For this, I am very sorry. But there was no other way.”
Last week, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin and sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéa had shied away from taking any responsibility for the dangerous chaos. Darmanin invoked fury when he claimed the disorder was caused by “massive, industrial-scale” ticket fraud. Lallement however stressed that he was responsible for the police operation at the Stade de France that night.
In the afternoon, the Liverpool mayor, who attended the final, said some French police officers were seeking confrontation with the club’s fans. Liverpool supporters were pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed outside the Stade de France ahead of the match. He said that “the day gradually transformed from a dream into a nightmare”.
“I saw police who were, in a way, looking to find a problem,” said Rotherham.
Both French authorities and the European governing body UEFA blamed late arrivals and fake tickets for overcrowding and chaotic scenes before the match. UEFA have since recanted that accusation and apologised to Liverpool fans.
In a staggering development, however, it was revealed during the senate session that all CCTV footage from outside the stadium on the day of the final has been deleted.
Erwan Le Prévost, director of international relations at the FFF, said that the CCTV footage of the stadium is automatically deleted after seven days. The footage needs to be requested before the seven days are up, otherwise, it is deleted. He added that the images were “extremely violent”.
FFF director Florence Hardouin, told senators that “on average, 57 fake tickets were scanned every five minutes” from 6pm to 9.35pm. She said 66% of these 2,471 forged tickets were scanned at gates reserved for Liverpool fans.
The version of events that French authorities, and in particular Darmamin, have outlined is heavily contested by Liverpool fans and international media who attended the showpiece match.
UEFA belatedly offered their apologies to fans attending the final. The European governing body has opened an investigation into what happened at the match, but Liverpool have questioned the neutrality of lead investigator Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues from Portugal. Rodrigues worked closely with former Portuguese Football Federation chief Tiago Craveiro, who is now an adviser to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
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