“Chaos Scenes”, “fear for (their) life”… Supporters heard before the Senate on Tuesday described the “appalling day” experienced during the Champions League final at the Stade de France, demanding accountability from Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, whom they called on to resign .
Three weeks after Gérald Darmanin’s hearing before a delegation of senators, his role was often mentioned on Tuesday when the parliamentarians this time heard a senior UEFA official, two representatives of Liverpool supporters, a Real Madrid supporter and officials from the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) group.
In question, the accusations of the minister a few hours after the serious dysfunctions in the organization of the final: Gérald Darmanin had castigated the English supporters, presenting the thesis of a “massive, industrial and organized fraud of counterfeit banknotes” creating disorder.
“You, sir (Darmanin), have humiliated the people of Paris. Your endless lies and false stories have only amplified our trauma”asserted Ted Morris, representative of the Association of disabled supporters of Liverpool, present at the Stade de France on May 28. “I ask you to withdraw your brutal and baseless accusations and, if you do not have the decency to do so, you must choose the most honorable course and resign”he launched.
In front of the senators, Ted Morris read the testimonies of “traumatized” disabled supporters, victims of theft or assault by local gangs in Saint-Denis or sprayed with tear gas by the police. “It’s the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in Europe with Liverpool”he said, recalling the trauma experienced in 1989 by Liverpool in Hillsborough, where 97 supporters were killed in a gigantic crowd movement.
Gérald Darmanin’s thesis was also weakened on Tuesday morning by the hearing of Martin Kallen, general manager of UEFA Events, a subsidiary of the European body responsible for commercial event operations. While Mr. Darmanin had maintained before the senators the controversial number of “35,000 supporters” provided, according to him, with falsified tickets or without tickets, this Swiss leader dismantled this figure.
Fans want an apology
“We know that we had around 2,600 tickets brought to the turnstiles which were fake”said Martin Kallen. “But a lot of counterfeit tickets never arrived at the turnstiles (…) How many? We don’t know, we couldn’t really check. We don’t believe it was the figure mentioned after the first days in France, either more or less 30,000 to 40,000”he asserted.
Member of the group of supporters “Spirit of Shankly”, Joe Blott also asked the French authorities to “retract” their accusations and to present “full apologies”, pointing to the damaged reputation of France.
“To ensure the safety of supporters at the Rugby World Cup (in 2023, editor’s note) and at the Olympic Games (2024) in the coming years, a full, independent and transparent investigation is needed so that the world regains confidence in the ability of France to organize global sporting events”he said.
For now, UEFA announced at the end of May an investigation entrusted to the former Portuguese Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Tiago Brandao Rodrigues. Martin Kallen specified that the latter had started his work “this week” and could report back “in September”.
In the meantime, the Swiss leader has issued some recommendations. Like for example “working as much as possible with electronic tickets”, “having more work on the perimeters” of security, or “having better communication with the actors in place”.
For Martin Kallen, paper tickets, which are easier to falsify, were less appropriate than certified electronic tickets. But “it wasn’t just paper tickets that created chaos outside the gates,” he argued. “The causes are multiple: transport strike, bad reactions from stewards, law enforcement, there were offenders (in the perimeter, editor’s note), an extremely large flow in front of the stadium without tickets or with counterfeit tickets “he argued.