French minister apologises to Liverpool fans for bringing back ‘painful’ Hillsborough memories
France’s sports minister has apologized to Liverpool supporters in a letter sent to the club after chaos marred the Champions League final, admitting it may have brought some ‘painful memories’ of the Hillsborough disaster think.
The match at the Stade de France in Paris was postponed twice and fans were fired with tear gas by police as they waited outside the ground.
In the aftermath, however, the French government tried to shift the problem to the Liverpool fans, who they believe had been in possession of counterfeit tickets.
But a 30-page report was commissioned by the French Prime Minister and accepted that there were 1,644 fake tickets in the Liverpool contingent, and a total of 2,589. It has also blamed operational breakdowns and poor signage for the fiasco.
Now Amelie Oudea-Castera admitted that there were “several successive failures” by the authorities around the stadium, resulting in the harrowing scenes. The position marks a major shift, after the minister partially blamed Liverpool for the storm.
Indeed, she had told radio station RTL in the aftermath of the final that the Anfield club had been guilty of struggling to properly organize their supporters, also claiming that there were 30,000 to 40,000 Reds fans without tickets around the venue.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has apologized to Liverpool fans for the chaos in Paris
Supporters were trapped outside the Stade de France for hours and were gassed with tear gas by the police
Liverpool chairman Tom Werner wrote to express his “utter disbelief” at the comments made by Oudea-Castera, who has now apologized in her response.
Her letter, which was seen by The timesreads: ‘First of all I would like to offer my sincere apologies to the Liverpool fans whose evening was ruined.
“We are aware of the fact that many of them came from afar, often with their families and sometimes even young children, to support their team and attend a memorable game of football.
“We regret that some of them had to witness scenes that have no place at all at a sporting event, especially as we are aware that it may have brought back particularly painful memories from your club’s history.”
But police chiefs in France have since defended their decision to use tear gas on innocent fans
Reds supporters were pictured masking themselves from the gas as they lined up at the venue
Oudea-Castera has tried to assure Liverpool’s leaders that an investigation by French authorities would dig into how the situation got out of hand and ‘make sure it never happens again’.
The Times has also reported that the Merseyside club is concerned. Figures in France still believe a “large and unpredictable number of counterfeit tickets worn by British supporters” was the “main cause of the incidents”.
She has offered to meet Werner in person after he addressed the “unproven statements on a case of such significance before even a proper, formal and independent investigation process.”
He further described the comments as “irresponsible, unprofessional and totally disrespectful to the thousands of fans who have been harmed physically and emotionally.”
Oudea-Castera has tried to assure Liverpool an investigation would prevent a repeat
French officials claimed tens of thousands of fans showed up for the match with fake tickets, showing two nearly identical passes while claiming one was a fake (right)
UEFA has launched an investigation into the final, a position that will be welcomed by Liverpool, who have also launched their own investigation. So far, about 9,000 harrowing accounts have been handed over to the club by fans who were in Paris.
In the background, however, French officials have stubbornly defended their actions. This week, the country’s police chief, Didier Lallement, backed the use of tear gas.
“I am fully aware that people have been gassed in good faith, even families,” Lallement said.
“I’m sorry, but there were no other means. The only way was to gas people.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement stood by the tear gas and said ‘there were no other means’
“I’ve asked to use gas.”
He also claimed that, without tear gas, officers on the ground should have charged the crowd to prevent them from entering the stadium, adding: “It would have been a mistake to charge people. It would have been devastating.’
Lallement went on to claim that thousands with fake tickets were “out of sight of CCTV cameras.” Since then, it has emerged that the authorities have not obtained CCTV recordings, as they were not claimed by the courts within the legal time limit of seven days.