Postcards from Paris detail Champions League final chaos. It would’ve happened to any club…

·28-min read
Liverpool fans locked out of Champions League final. Credit: PA Images
Liverpool fans locked out of Champions League final. Credit: PA Images

The Mailbox features a couple of first-hand accounts from the Champions League final. Some, though, haven’t much sympathy for Liverpool fans or the English.

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com

 

One night in Paris
I felt compelled to write this entry about my experience on Saturday night in Paris – to me it is important that the honest accounts of individuals experiences on that awful day are at least attempted to be captured.

I’m not going to write about the match itself – the game felt like an irrelevance after what I experienced and the atmosphere amongst the fans reflected that. Of course I wanted my team to win but when I joined in the chants, it was more from a position of defiance than excited passion – UEFA and the local authorities had done a job on us.

The fact that we didn’t score meant that at no point in that evening in Paris did we get to experience one moment of joy. Part of me thinks it’s appropriate that we didn’t lift the cup as that would have only served to gloss over the awful events that book-ended the match.

I travelled with 4 other people who had legitimate tickets purchased from the club. We aimed to get to the ground at least 2 hours before kick-off and chose to do so by cab. This meant that we avoided the mass bottle neck on the route out of the train station on the west side of the ground, however, we did got a ring side seat for it as we were stuck in a jam for a fair amount of time alongside. Not a good start.

Got out of the cab at 7.40 local time and decided to head around up to the entrance point at the north west of the stadium. As we did so we could see various locals trying to climb through the bushes to scale the side wall that would have got them into the outer perimeter section. It was getting worse. There was an under-current feeling of disarray and I started to feel uneasy.

What then followed was 45 minutes of my life that will stay with me for a long, long time… and that was just to get into the outer perimeter of the stadium before the turnstiles.

A few thousand fans were being bottled necked through to a check point where less than 10 people a minute appeared to be being let through. Time was ticking .. tension was rising .. people were just confused … how could the organisation be this incompetent ?

The pressure of the crush got more intense and I didn’t feel in control. Parents were doing what they could to protect their kids, getting them on their shoulders if possible. Grown men were in tears. 3 of the 4 people I was with were at Hillsborough and when I looked round I could see two of them had deliberately turned side on to protect the crush on their lungs (think of the flashbacks they must have been having at that time .. jesus .. and all this on what had the potential to be one of the best days of your life).

Eventually we got through and headed up the slope to get to the turnstiles (30mins to scheduled kick off at this point) – surely it was going to be smooth now to get in. How wrong could we be.

I jogged round to turnstile A and joined the back of the zig-zagging fenced filter system. It just did not move, the main reason being that people didn’t who didn’t have tickets or who were being told that they have fake tickets were being turned away and then forced to fight their way back against the tide of the masses.. bedlam.

I saw about a dozen or so locals, half of which were in white shirts, scale the 12 foot high fencing to my right. No one in a red shirt.

What struck me at the time was how together the fans were, calling out bad behaviour where perhaps one or two tried to sneak up the queue. The joy and excitement of what should have been a fantastic occasion was just draining away … how could they be doing this to us again ?

After 40 minutes of moving nowhere a fan who had managed to get in shouted to go to gate C as the queues were far smaller – I decided to risk it and escaped the gate A queue and ran the 50 yards round to gate C and sure enough there were far less but they were turning people away from other gate zones.

The electronic turnstiles weren’t working so it felt like they were manually letting them turn at various points. I managed to sneak in behind a father and son to the ground side of the turnstiles and held up my ticket to the 20 year old steward who looked like a rabbit in the headlights.

Ran up the stairs and got to where my seat was at just after 9.20.

Booed the UEFA music as loudly as I could, watched my team lose and left the ground 2 minutes after the end.

Further trouble awaited.

We were cattled into another funnel under an over-pass on the way to the train station on the south side where we were then held by police. A foul tasting acrid smell was in the air and people were covering their eyes. It transpires that above us were a group of PSG shirt wearing people chucking pyro’s at us… and the police did nothing apart from hold us there. 5 minutes goes by and we are released to head to the station only to see groups of locals steaming into the crowds along the way in what I now understand to be muggings and the like … the police were conspicuous by their absence, leaving us to our fate.

Managed to get on a train to Garde de Norde and disembarked (…. and breathe).

Although the local authorities / police did not cover themselves in glory (it’s a divided society being policed by a heavy handed mob it would seem), I feel a greater level of anger towards UEFA.

The manner in which they communicated to the wider audience as the night played out and unravelled was scandalous and only served to re-inforce their Teflon nature.

When they announced the delayed kick-off they blamed late arriving fans – thank you to the British media that had managed to get in for quickly shooting that down.

They then said that it was Liverpool fans presenting fake tickets – the honest truth is that the turnstile scanners weren’t working properly and being marshalled by juveniles who didn’t know what they were doing, with some seeking bribes to get through.

Then they released reports that Liverpool fans were scaling the fences – I didn’t see any wearing a red shirt do so.

Eventually they moved away from their default setting of blaming our fans and said it was fake tickets and locals without tickets causing the issues (thank you to the Spanish media for quickly recognising that it was locals and not Liverpool fans scaling the walls, probably in part as they sort to distance themselves from them being Madrid fans).

For finals, UEFA sail in and take over the running of the event from local authorities. What is evident is that the security and fan experience is not a priority and in effect a complete after thought.

In 1998 for the world cup they had an exclusion perimeter close to a mile from the ground which you needed to have a ticket to get through. This was followed by another couple of checkpoints that meant it was a relative breeze when at the ground to get in. Why did they not do something similar this time round ? it’s not as if they didn’t have the police numbers present to help achieve this.

There will now be an understandable clamour for ‘lessons to be learnt’ and for ‘change’ … but nothing will.

Heads wont roll at UEFA and what do we think the value is of UEFA conducting a review of themselves ? … like I said, Teflon.

What I would consider progress is at least them admitting that they and the police authorities got it wrong .. a step in the right direction at least, but will people lose their jobs over it ? .. will they hell.

I wanted to outline what I saw and experienced for the record.

There are plenty of scandalous stories that appear to be filtering out, one of the worse of which to me is that of an older lady in a wheelchair taken to the match by her son, being pepper sprayed at the gate and then wheeled off and effectively clamped behind a police van until after the match had finished ….. but I only wanted to pen what I actually saw.

If you treat people like animals for long enough a small number may break and act like them – it is with immense pride that I can say that I didn’t see any of that from our fans. We were effectively too shell-shocked by what transpired and those longer in the tooth knew that reacting would serve no purpose … it would actually only serve to give the local authorities the story line they wanted.

Thank you to the UK police who were there and stated that Liverpool fans behaviour was ‘exemplary’ – them saying that means a lot to me, bearing in mind our history.

I couldn’t be prouder to be a red.
Sparky, LFC, YNWA

 

Liverpool fans get that familiar feeling of blame for their own mistreatment in Paris

 

…I’d just like to have the chance to reply to Mat (a man who was not at the Stade de France on Saturday and admits to having only attended a few games in his life), as someone who was actually there and experienced a degree of the chaos.

Firstly i’ll declare, and perhaps Mat would do well to consider this on such a serious issue, I was not in the Liverpool club allocation end proper, I was in a ‘neutral’ section which was in fact the next block to the Real end, so I would not think to start to comment on what happened in that specific area of / entrance to the stadium.

However even trying to get to a neutral section, having been at the stadium at 18:50, I didn’t get my ticket scanned and into the ground proper until 21:05. But all that time I and many others – including Real fans – experienced dangerous crowd build ups – caused where we were by riot police seemingly without a brain cell between them, heavy handed policing (we weren’t actually tear gassed but one cop clearly thought it funny to show the crowd they had it causing panic among women and children), virtually no stewarding or instructions, then when actually in the never ending queue to get in our Gate, witnessing an hours worth of ‘Saint Denis’ finest’ constant attempts to parkour it into the stadium (some of it, on an athletic appreciation level, was incredible tbf) whilst regular gangs of them barged into the front of the queue claiming they had tickets on their phones when they clearly didn’t.

Onto the subject of perhaps fake tickets and bad faith fans getting in instead of their fellow ones who should. So, I did see that ONE idiot on Twitter who revelled in bunking his dad in. I also saw one social media posting claiming there were a lot of blag tickets going for £100 each or something? But it was just a photo of a handful on a table – I mean I don’t think that would stand up in court.*

But anyway I’ll tell you a story from Saturday night about the tickets and getting in. I was lucky enough to obtain several tickets direct from the most official of sources – straight into the UEFA Mobile Ticketing app. So four of my mates had these tickets in a different neutral area from me, one nearer to the Liverpool end and the more chaotic scene. One of the lad’s tickets wouldn’t work after a couple of goes on the scanner and they refused to let him in – he eventually got let in at half time. Where we were, there were not too many people left in the queue at just after 9pm, my ticket worked fine, but then after me my friend, a petit 5ft 2in woman, her ticket wouldn’t work (her bluetooth, as is necessary, was turned on), but to be fair to this one steward (you were lucky actually to see any) he was incredibly helpful, kept refreshing the app etc for over a minute and it eventually worked. The point here being that the technology whether it be the stadiums scanners or something else, was clearly at fault in many cases all around the ground – and it would also help if you had sympathetic stewards, as opposed to the reports of those whose behaviour sounded not much better than many of their countryman loitering outside. Oh yes, them, again. I’d love to see some of these gobsh*tes on social media who don’t go to football matches to have attempted the gone midnight walk back through Saint Denis to one of the train stations. Not for the faint hearted, especially when the robocops had decided the only thing they were going to defend at that point was the entrances to the stations once you made it there.

Hope anyone who’s arsed appreciated this report from the field. Those of you who’d probably confuse a football stadium for an Ikea or an alien spaceship if you were ever near one, maybe go and tell Vietnam vets, that although you weren’t there, you definitely do know, or something.
Cheers, Rob.

 

English fans bring it on themselves
Lets just cut to the chase. it was the behavior of England fans at the Euro final that most likely led to the (supposedly) heavy handed response of the French police. It is the clear, consistent and documented violent history of English fans around Europe (and at home) that has led to this cock up. Despite Liverpudlians claiming they are not English, they infact clearly are, and they do infact share a culture of yobbish aggression around big football matches abroad. A mixture of sun and lager that leads to pissed up tw*ts acting like trash. We all saw Wembley/London when England got to the final, it was barbaric, primal and disgusting. Thats now the expectation. Behave like animals, then be prepared to be treated like animals next time…

Ian King makes valid points throughout his article, but let’s not beat around the bush here… English fans have a disgusting track record at home and abroad. Liverpool’s fans actions at Heysel ultimately led to the death of 39 Italian football fans. So, you can maybe understand why the French police had to be a little “heavy handed” when the threat (and believe me, this is a serious threat) of ticketless English Yobs entering a stadium became a reality. History dictates that lives could be lost. Recent history shows that fat white sunburnt Englishmen have no regard for authority, locals, rules, anything and they will happily engage in casual violence in order to get to see a bunch of overpaid Instagram stars kick a ball around a pitch. They will literally go to jail for this. They do not care about the threat to safety they cause.

So just to repeat the blatantly obvious. Stopping a ticketless crowd of people with a history of violent behavior getting into a confined stadium may require some harsh methods of control. If any fans understand this, it should be Liverpool fans.

The French had little time to prepare for this match. The event was taken from the evil Russians and changed to Paris (*France are currently blowing up Mali, Central Africa and Syria). No doubt having an English club involved extra risks. Extra risks mean extra costs. Maybe Europe doesn’t have the endless millions of Euros to spend on attempting to civilize the travelling English fans. Perhaps the FA should pay each country additional security fees each time England plays in Europe. The rest of Europe don’t need to create systems in order to control your aggressiveness. You need to stop being so aggressive.

Get through a few competitions without violence and come back and talk to us… until then… bring your gas masks in your carry-on luggage. If you want to bring your kids to these occasions, then that’s a calculated choice. You know the risks. You know the people your children will be surrounded by. Yeah, it’s sad they cant enjoy a football match without being traumatised, but thats the reality created by the travelling English football fans over the last 50+ years.
Shz

 

Solidarity and scorn
As a United fan I’m still positively buzzing that Liverpool ‘bestest team ever’ FC lost against Madrid on Saturday. I’ll be seeing my scouse mates this weekend and intend to spend as much time as possible ripping into and laughing at their pain. However its plain as day that their fans were the subject of terrible crowd management, disgraceful police tactics, and victimisation by a corrupt UEFA.

Yes, some fans tried to get in with fake tickets. So? Do you not think that every major sporting event in the world is a target for fraudsters, including every previous Champions League final? Fake tickets are inevitable and thus predictable, the stadium management should have systems in place to deal with this. Its not even a hard thing to do, it just means hiring more staff to man the gates and having an escape lane leading out of the grounds. As for the Police, any regular match going fan has a story of heavy handed treatment by law enforcement in this country, in their eyes we’re already criminals. Add to this the foreign view of ‘English Football Fans’ as troublemakers and I bet French Police were itching to breakout the tear gas. That this action is barely surprising should be condemnation enough.

For those who are spouting the ‘its always Liverpool fans though’ line. For starters, f*ck you! Do you not remember the Euro 2020 final at Wembley? Were all those rushing the stadium without tickets Liverpool fans? There are thousands of mass public events around the globe every year, most are run smoothly but at others people are crushed, attacked, and sometimes killed. The difference between them is not who attended, its how they are managed.

You’d think after decades of being shat on by governments, police, the FA, and corporate arseholes football fans would at least show a little solidarity with each other in times like this. You can support them and take the piss at the same time. I think everyone involved with the management of that game should be punished for their negligence and I’m glad Liverpool fans mostly made it home safely. At the same time I know how crappy it feels after losing the UCL final and I’ll be exploiting that pain for my own enjoyment for at least a few more weeks.
Dave, Manchester

 

Blame and whataboutery in 2022
As always in a time of back covering all nuance is lost in the search for a more disposable scape goat.

The fact is multiple points of failure culminate in events like those seems in the CL final. Football fans around the world including those in the English game have been infected by massively antisocial groups of misbehaving idiots. From pitch invasions to sneaking in, from the presence of Class A drugs on the increase to the reemergence of racial and xenophobic chanting. The fact is, yet again, c@nts are ruining football for fans. Ironically, players have become marvellous ambassadors for better behaviour overall. Who wouldn’t want to live next to Saka or Sterling whereas the John Terrys and Balotellis would’ve been a nightmare.

The above is on the rise and provides the ideal paradigm for the second issue to flourish. Very notably in France but very evident elsewhere is the rise of thuggish policing. Well outside the realms of football, validated reports of police violence in France are horrifying. A boy being sexually assaulted with a police baton comes instantly to mind. Equally the treatment of the poor girl strip-searched by British police at just 15 years old is appalling. Where is the f@cking humanity?

Governments are all elected and subject to falling on their swords after trial by media for the slightest incident, so nobody in government is going to speak out against this behaviour, so by their self-serving silence or endorsement become utterly complicit. In a climate where the media relishes finding any reason to get someone fired it has created a system of politicians adept at denials and blaming. Given politicians are now just PR managers and the media is a pack of wolves seeking to fill 24-hours of clickbait the whole system is rotten, meaning the aforementioned misbehaving fans become the perfect distraction

Then we have footballing organisations like UEFA and FIFA who’s sole job is self enrichment. Football managed to set the scene for how social media works. The fans are the product, not the football, the clubs or the players. These fans are manipulated, packaged and sold. But to make this work these organisations have tricked fans into thinking they are less important that the organisations themselves. So for UEFA and Co to blame the fans has the dual benefit of both keeping fans in their place while diverting attention away from the money rinsing aspects of the system. Again, it is a poisoned kitchen of dogshit.

So as with wars, social media arguments and polarising politics, plus a suite of suboptimal parts of the ecosystem, the culture of blaming others and whataboutism wins because self reflection is dead, and likely to lead to your sacking and vilification in the media and falling off the gravy train. What’s more, in blaming the fans for Sunday’s chaos, the status quo remains untampered and the illicit gains remain in tact.

What a crock this whole thing is FFS
Alexander

 

Give me a break
As the season, finally, finishes a couple of thoughts from me if I may.

First, thanks as ever to the F365 team and the mailbox. Always an interesting read and lots of nice opinion pieces over the year. Will be back next season as I have been for the last what, 15?!

Second – I think we all need a break. On Sunday morning I woke up exhausted – not sure how the players must have felt after 63 games! Am I disappointed we lost on Saturday, absolutely. Will it define the season? Absolutely not. One of the things I’ve come to accept over the years is that one team has to lose and you have no right to always be the winner.

Liverpool fans should understand this more than most – erm, Istanbul anyone? If you want to talk about running out of luck, we used a centuries worth in one night.

The other thing I would say is, you forget the losses far quicker than the wins. Honestly, I’ve not given the 2018 final a second thought for years. When you look back at this season, I hope my fellow reds recall the Carabao cup (first in 10 years) and the FA cup (first in 16 years), the 5 nil and 4 nil wins over United are also particular highlights.

A great season – Liverpool will come back. Anyone thinking end of an era because Mane wants to leave is being overly negative for me. Liverpool are winners again – dominance is hard to achieve – we remain on the right track. If you can’t enjoy the season just gone, football 100% is not for you.

Anyway. That was last season – on to the next. Looking forward to August and weird World cup. But mostly to two months off.

Up the reds!

Cheers,
Marc

 

It would’ve happened to anyone
I want to write to applaud the excellent article Ian King wrote regarding the scenes outside the Stade de Paris on Saturday. Thankfully a crisis was avoided but from reading testimony of a number of fans (Madrid ones included, incidentally) I worry we were closer to one than we realise. Tragically, we saw one during the African Cup of Nations, so these things can and do happen.

I’m reluctant to make the Hillsborough connection, but the scant disregard for football fans by the authorities, as well as the decision to cast the blame on said fans as events are unfolding should be chilling parallels for all genuine football supporters.

Just to be clear to anyone buying the bullsh*t about 40,000 fake tickets and late arrivals: if your team had reached the final then UEFA and the authorities would have treated you like animals too.
Daniel, London

 

Chelsea have matched Liverpool, have they?
In response to Victor, Toronto, Canada…Comparing this Liverpool to Chelsea based on same number of trophies since Klopp arrived?
Seriously…points total in last 6 seasons

Liverpool
21/22 – 92
20/21 – 69
19/20 – 99
18/19 – 97
17/18 – 75
16/17 – 76
Total = 508

Chelsea
21/22 – 74
20/21 – 67
19/20 – 66
18/19 – 72
17/18 – 70
16/17 – 93
Total = 442

This is before we even talk about how when Klopp first arrived Liverpool finished 8th(?), mediocre team and very little investment. Chelsea has always had huge investments in players since Roman came in. Yet despite this Liverpool have finished above Chelsea 5 times out of the last 6 seasons.
There is no comparison…
Paul (LFC Sydney )

 

…Love the fact so many of the more tribal element of football fans are getting in a froth over Liverpool’s run. “But he aint won nothing” has shifted to what a wanker he didn’t beat the Oil run powerhouse every year. He only won as much as Chelsea.

Oh, so doing as well as the original English super sugar daddy funded club, who had already spent billions at that point to financial dope their way to titles and trophies. What a charlatan, taking a club that was a “next year” meme, full of mid table finishes and lower budgets than most big sides, to every possible achievement after promising it would take 4 years to build the team in his image. All the while creating a structure that will stand beyond his time at the club.
Joe (FWIW if any English side besides City or Chelsea made it into a CL final, I’d want them to win)

 

Liverpool’s GOAT? Who cares…
All this talk of this being Liverpool’s greatest ever team…It’s obvious from the trophy count that it’s a very good team (admittedly if City didn’t have squillions of cash then maybe we’d be winning a few more pots) but also obvious by that meaasure that they’re not the best ever.
Maybe the way they play is the most exciting, and the manger is more overtly enthusiastic than any other, so it’s a joy to watch them (most of the time).
I love banter as much as the next guy, but let’s not get carried away and overhype them, it really doesn’t matter.
They’re great. It’s now. Just enjoy it.
Simon, LFC, Amsterdam

 

Welcome back, Nottingham Forest
It might get lost amid all the celebrations, but IFAB and the Premier League have announced that next season, clubs whose fans are found to have referred to “Notts Forest” will be punished by points deduction. A 24-hour hotline to report offences anonymously will be set up imminently.

There was a lot of partying late into the evening round this way yesterday. As some people know, I lived in or near Nottingham since 2003, so I’ve always been interested in Forest. I know lifelong fans, many of them season ticket holders, whose formative years came during the European Cup winning era. Three of the football media’s most prominent Forest supporters (Messrs Davies-Adams, Miller and Taylor) went to the school round the corner from my house. Walking my son to school takes us past a house belonging to a Forest legend. You can’t help being drawn into it: Nottingham (and its surrounds) is immensely proud of the Reds. As a city, there is a lot more happening than people realise, because Nottingham isn’t as prone to bragging about itself the way Leeds or Sheffield is.

By anyone’s definition, the last 20 years have been eventful for Nottingham Forest. They were in decline at the start of that time and it only got worse two years later, when they were relegated to the third tier amid reports of players partying immediately before a crucial game . A revolving door was installed on the manager’s office that stopped spinning long enough for Billy Davies’s truly bizarre return to the club. Stuart Pearce and Martin O’Neill both failed to use their status as club legends to inspire the first team players into anything remotely resembling good performance. Meanwhile, it should be said, there are plenty of club legends working behind the scenes in the academy set up – at least, I’ve seen a few at various points holding court in a cob shop roughly halfway between my old office and the City Ground. There is also a pub group running regular “an evening with” events, almost always with a player from the Brian Clough-Frank Clark era.

Clark’s team returned to the Premier League with a bang and, with what hazy memories suggest was quite an attacking style, finished third in 1994-95, an incredible achievement for a promoted side, leading to a UEFA Cup run later immortalised by the song Three Lions. It seems unlikely Steve Cooper’s side will achieve the same, although they showed this season they were able to bloody a few Premier League noses. Hopefully, the club realise how important he, his coaches and setup are to their potential success and don’t sack him at the first sign of poor form. It’s nice to have them back in the top flight.
Ed Quoththeraven

Man Utd football director John Murtough and new manager Erik ten Hag. Credit: PA Images
Man Utd football director John Murtough and new manager Erik ten Hag. Credit: PA Images

Man Utd and the proclamation of mediocrity
Been doing alot of reading about many of the Prem Clubs recently. Nothing much else to do since Wycombe is all but dead until July.

Keep coming back to Man United however. For many fans they see Ten Haag as a new dawn. I might too if I supported them. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Ten Haag seems like yet another big statement appointment, when, in reality, United’s leadership seem utterly devoid of wanting to submit to actual, genuine change.

The Glazers, and United leadership, seem fairly happy to skid on by as long as they can keep funnelling money from the club.

I do think that, albeit without any proof yet, that Ragnick was *recommended* not to stay because he seemed intent on making genuine change, not just vocal change to placate the fans. And with him gone, will Ten Haag do much better?

Well, several staff members have been removed, the ones most largely blamed, but to be perfectly honest this seems like an issue that’s affecting not individuals, but the very structure of Man United, which is utterly bedded to the status quo. Which, let’s be real, is mediocrity for such a large club.

Let’s look at the last *big* manager of Man United, one with a stellar record and would be clearly capable of assessing United’s issues.

Jose.

Jose, let’s be real, is a bit of an arsehole. But he’s a successful arsehole who’s won with every club he’s managed since 2002, apart from Spurs, who had the genius plan of removing a trophy specialist mere days before, uh, *checks notes*, a cup final.

He was also right about many of Man United’s issues. He stated that United needed a fundamental change in structure and culture. He was right about the squads issues, and key players he attempted to freeze out years before Ole and Ragnick caught on. Even Rio knows that Jose was ultimately right about his assessment, claiming that Jose’s evaluation “has aged so well”

I look forward to Ten Haag at Man United. He seems like a genuinely competent manager who has deserved a step up after stellar performances at Ajax. I just fear he’s gonna be made yet another scapegoat by United fans if, and sadly, when, in my opinion, United refuse to make genuine change, and continue to dwell in stagnation and mediocrity. I hope im proven wrong
DaraghJohn, Wycombe Fan, Premier League observer

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