August 9, 2022

French authorities deployed riot police in large numbers to the Champions League final in Paris, apparently due to a mistaken association of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster with hooliganism, according to an official report produced for the French Prime Minister.

The report by Michel Cadot, the French Sports Ministry’s delegate to major sporting events, appears to confirm the darkest assumptions of many Liverpool supporters in the final, that the brutal repression they suffered, including tear gas, was based on prejudices about their likely behavior. .

Cadot’s 30-page report, delivered to French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s office on Friday, makes reference to Hillsborough in a section on police intelligence ahead of the May 28 final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. The section first acknowledges that Liverpool fans are not known for match violence. However, he then continues: “Reference to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 – 97 dead – for which the responsibility of the [police] was pointed out, however led to the development of a firm police force, to maintain order in riot gear, in order to be able to respond to a risk of collective phenomena of hooliganism and devastation, such as this occurred in Marseille on June 13, 2016 during the England-Russia match.

The bereaved families of Hillsborough reacted with outrage and dismay at the association of the report of the disaster, in the 1989 FA Cup semi-final, with hooliganism, and the revelation that despite all the changes in football over the in the 33 years that followed, it apparently still informed police perceptions. and behavior.

After a 27-year campaign by bereaved families and survivors to legally establish the truth about the cause of the disaster, an inquest jury determined in 2016 that all 97 victims were unlawfully killed due to manslaughter. guilty of gross negligence by the South Yorkshire Police officer in command, Ch Supt David Duckenfield.

The jury also determined that there was no hooliganism, drunkenness, missing a ticket or any other alleged misconduct by Liverpool supporters that contributed to the disaster.

Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew, 26, was one of the 97 people killed, said of the report: “It is a complete and outrageous failure to comprehend the disaster. And this prejudice, that Liverpool supporters are hooligans, based on a complete misunderstanding of something that happened 33 years ago, nearly caused another disaster in Paris, for a new generation of Liverpool supporters. .

French police inside the Stade de France on the night Real Madrid beat Liverpool to win the 2021-22 Champions League. Photography: Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Cadot’s report identified multiple failures in crowd management at the Stade de France, where kick-off was delayed by 36 minutes as thousands of fans were held in static queues and many were gassed by the French police. However, his report stands by the allegation that huge numbers of Liverpool fans with fake tickets were a significant part of the problem. Borne reportedly accepted Cadot’s recommendations for improvement and demanded that they be implemented without delay.

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool area, who has experienced chaos in Paris including the theft, described the allegation as a way for the French government to deflect blame and scapegoat supporters. Of the Hillsborough reference, Rotheram said: “This is described as intelligence, but it shows a lack of intelligence and confirms our worst fears. The appalling police and poor crowd management in Paris were based on lies, ignorance and prejudice. This again underscores the need for a full, thorough and independent investigation.

Margaret Aspinall, the last chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose 18-year-old son James was one of 97 people killed in the disaster, called the report a disgrace.

“It confirms our worst suspicions that a completely false view of what happened in Hillsborough tipped off a police force from another country. This shows the power of the lies told by the police in this country, which are still believed and repeated by far too many people. Football stadiums and policing have been made much safer after the disaster, and all football fans should understand that.

France’s sports ministry, which commissioned the report, and the interior ministry, which is in charge of policing, have been contacted for comment.

A UEFA spokesman said the organization could not comment on an official report from the French government. However, a source insisted that UEFA staff are well aware of the truth about Hillsborough and played no role in providing such references to the police as intelligence.