In addition, Didier Lallement told a French Senate committee asking for an explanation on Thursday that the number of counterfeit paper tickets for the May 28 match was lower than previously cited. Previously, French officials had blamed massive ticket fraud on the crush of fans who contributed to the scene.
What happened was “obviously a failure,” Lallement said (via The Associated Press), “because people were being pushed around or assaulted when we owed them security.” He added that it was “also a failure because the image of our country…was shattered”.
Liverpool fans struggled as they sought to enter the gates of the Stade de France for the May 28 game against Real Madrid and were gassed by police. The game’s kick-off, a 1-0 win for Real Madrid, was delayed by more than 30 minutes in a scene that raised questions about how City will face fans for the FIFA World Cup. rugby 2023 and the 2024 Olympics.
Lallement said officials had no choice but to use tear gas on the fans. “[It] is the only way to get a crowd to back down except to accuse them, and I think it would have been a big mistake to accuse people,” Lallement said. “I am well aware that people of good faith have been gassed, and I am totally sorry for that, but I repeat, there was no other way.”
He added that “we made sure that the game went ahead and, above all, that there were no serious injuries or deaths”.
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Home Secretary Gérald Darmanin had been criticized for blaming the crushing of people on ‘massive, industry-wide’ ticket fraud among Liverpool fans, and Lallement had previously estimated the number of such fake tickets paper at 30,000-40,000 for a stadium that holds 75,000. The French Football Federation said 110,000 people turned out for the game.
“Maybe I was wrong,” Lallement said. “Whether there were 40,000, 30,000 or 20,000, it didn’t change the fact that there were tens of thousands of people who couldn’t fit in.”
Florence Hardouin, the FFF’s chief executive, said most of the tickets, which were paper rather than digital, were found in the Liverpool area. The FFF has recommended switching only to the use of dematerialized tickets.
Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram disagreed with French authorities, telling the Senate that valid tickets were being rejected by scanners that were not working properly and adding that claims of so many counterfeit tickets were being “used to scapegoat Liverpool fans.
He also told the Senate that the congestion started at the train station in suburban Saint-Denis and got worse as fans approached the stadium.
In addition to the fake tickets, French authorities had blamed fans who arrived late for a scene that turned more chaotic when local youths attacked fans as they were being pushed back. Later, Liverpool fans said local gangs attacked them after the game, stealing phones and watches and threatening them with knives.
Lallement encouraged fans of both teams to file complaints if they were victims of counterfeit tickets or street crimes “so that we can find the culprits and prosecute them”.
The Union of European Football Associations, the sport’s governing body in Europe, promised a review and apologized days after the incident to fans of both teams, saying “no football fan should be put in this situation and that it must not happen again.”