French police have finally apologised to Liverpool fans over the use of tear gas at last month’s Champions League Final in Paris, but insisted they had “no other means” of controlling the large crowd.Paris police chief Didier Lallement accepted his force’s security operation was “a failure” and admitted he may have been wrong when he claimed up to 40,000 Liverpool fans had fake tickets.Thousands of Liverpool supporters were locked out of the Stade de France ahead of their side’s defeat to Real Madrid, with pepper spray and tear gas used in an attempt to disperse the crowds that had gathered as a result of the bottleneck, amid fears of a crush.Some fans said they feared another tragedy like Hillsborough in 1989, while others reported being mugged by local youths as they left at full-time.“It is obviously a failure,” Lallement told a French Senate commission investigating the debacle this morning. “It was a failure because people were pushed around and attacked.”
Defenders put the chaos down to the fact that Paris had only three months to prepare to host European club football’s showpiece, stepping in after St Petersburg was stripped of the final following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But the fallout has been considered an untimely national embarrassment, with the French capital due to host the Olympic Games two years from now.
“It’s a failure because the image of the country was undermined,” Lallement added.
He also confirmed that he had authorised the use of tear gas against the crowds, which included women and children, calling it “necessary” and said two of his officers were under investigation over allegations of excessive use. “There are two images that support this,” he said. “In one, we see an officer who sprays someone who is approaching, and who seems to be an English supporter. But the problem with images, is that the picture is not always complete.”
Kick-off was delayed by 36 minutes, with many Reds fans still stuck outside as the game got underway shortly after 9.30pm local time. UEFA initially blamed the hold-up on the late arrival of Liverpool fans, a claim that was disputed by on-the-ground reports of people waiting hours to gain entry.
UEFA and French authorities then put the carnage down to counterfeit ticket sales “on an industrial scale”, with the country’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin claiming that between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans had turned up without a ticket or possessing fakes.
Lallement revealed that he had been responsible for passing that figure to the government and said: “What is certain is that there were many more people than the capacity of the stadium.
“Perhaps I was wrong in the figure given to the Interior Minister, but I never claimed that this figure was perfectly fair, but it seems to reflect the situation around the stadium.”