“I was there last Saturday in Paris. I was also there at Hillsborough in 1989. And I can say, without any shadow of a doubt, if it was not for the magnificent efforts of the Liverpool supporters last Saturday we could have had a disaster worse than Hillsborough.”Ian Byrne MP
Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne asked an Urgent Question in Parliament regarding the significant problems arising at the Champions League Final on 28 May in Paris and he has also tabled an Early Day Motion on the serious and dangerous issues faced by Liverpool and Real Madrid fans outside the stadium before and after the match.
The Labour MP is a survivor of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 97 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed in a crush at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield. He attended the final in Paris and witnessed first-hand the shocking and appalling stadium management outside the Stade de France.
This included the funnelling of Liverpool fans into a dangerous bottleneck and crush and the indiscriminate teargassing and pepperspraying of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans – including men, women, children and disabled people with match tickets who were simply queueing to gain entry to the stadium. The chaos led to the match being delayed by 36 minutes, with UEFA initially blaming this on the late arrival of fans, even though publicly available video footage and first-hand accounts from many journalists in the queues showed that thousands of fans had started queuing as much as three-and-a-half hours before kickoff. The UEFA claim was also condemned by Merseyside Police officers working at the match who asserted
that “fans did not arrive late”.
The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin later claimed there had been “industrial-scale” ticket fraud and that more than 30,000 Liverpool fans had fake tickets or no tickets outside the stadium. However, this was disputed by supporters and even Liverpool players who had given club-issued tickets to friends and family only for them to be denied entry. Mr Darmanin also claimed that only English fans had caused problems – an accusation which Liverpool Chief Executive Billy Hogan has described as “disgraceful”.
UEFA has since apologised for the problems experienced by fans outside the stadium, but Mr Byrne wants a full retraction and apology for the false accusations and smears levelled at Liverpool and Real Madrid fans. He said: “There was a shambolic breakdown of stadium management and extremely hostile policing in Paris. It was the worst situation I’ve experienced at a football match since Hillsborough – and it could have been extremely serious with many lives lost. It was only the patience of Liverpool supporters that
prevented a major tragedy occurring. We got absolutely no help from the authorities.”
Mr Byrne continued: “The apology last week from UEFA is a welcome acknowledgement of the horrors suffered by both sets of supporters, but we need a full public apology and retraction of the smears made about Liverpool and Real fans regarding the delayed kick-off. We also need to ensure that the inquiry requested by UEFA into the horrific events at the Stade De France is truly independent and engages with Liverpool Football Club, Liverpool Supporters Trust and Merseyside Police for input into the inquiry.”
In his Urgent Question addressed to the Government Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston MP, Ian Byrne MP said: “I was there last Saturday in Paris. I was also there at Hillsborough in 1989. And I can say, without any shadow of a doubt, if it was not for the magnificent efforts of the Liverpool supporters last Saturday we could have had a disaster worse than Hillsborough. Last Saturday in Paris, I witnessed first hand shambolic stadium management and the most hostile policing environment at a sporting event I have ever seen.
I watched children getting pepper sprayed. Pensioners getting tear-gassed. Turnstiles and exits shut while thousands queued for hours waiting to attend the blue ribbon football occasion of the season. We were treated like animals for wanting to watch a game of football. And then the smears and lies, straight from the Hillsborough playbook were used by the authorities to avoid accountability of the horrific events last Saturday. Never ever again, should this be tolerated in this country and round the globe. Enough is enough.”
Mr Byrne went on to ask the Minister:
- Whether the Government will make representations to UEFA following the calls of Liverpool Football Club, Real Madrid Football Club and the Liverpool Supporters Trust for a full – and truly independent inquiry – into the horrific events at the Stade De France, which could have easily cost the lives of UK citizens?
- Whether the Secretary of State will call on the French Government and UEFA to retract the attempts to smear Liverpool Football Club supporters without any verifiable evidence produced to substantiate the claims?
- Whether the Secretary of State will engage with her French counterpart to ensure that UK citizens, including many children, are never again treated with such brutality and force by French Police for simply attending a football match?
Ian Byrne MP has also submitted a parliamentary Early Day Motion about the issue: Treatment of Liverpool fans at the 2022 Champions League Final in Paris, which you can read below:
That this House condemns the deeply disturbing treatment by French police of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans outside Stade de France at the Champions League Final in Paris; notes catastrophic failures in stadium management by UEFA and French authorities which threatened the lives and wellbeing of supporters; further notes the grossly inadequate funnelling on approaching the stadium; notes the inadequate number of trained stewards on turnstiles and access through said turnstiles; condemns indiscriminate pepper-spraying and tear-gassing of supporters including children by French police; recognises Liverpool fans arrived at Stade de France up to three-and-a-half hours before kick-off; notes Merseyside Police evidence that the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving early and queuing as directed; insists UEFA holds an independent investigation into matchday failures in co-ordination with Merseyside Police, LFC and Spirit of Shankly; demands a public retraction and apology from UEFA and French authorities for announcing on stadium boards and to a global TV audience that the delay to kick-off was caused by Liverpool fans arriving at the stadium late when this was categorically untrue; demands French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera publicly retract and apologise for their appalling and unsubstantiated comments about Liverpool fans made since the match; condemns the life threatening bottleneck and crush Liverpool fans were forced into prior to kick-off; and insists that reports of French people entering the stadium without tickets and Liverpool and Real Madrid fans being pick-pocketed and mugged near to the stadium are fully investigated.
- You can follow Ian Byrne MP on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- You can view the Early Day Motion “Treatment of Liverpool fans at the 2022 Champions League Final in Paris and the MPs who have added their support here.