PARIS (AP) — Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters forced to endure long waits to get to the Champions League final amid logistical chaos and a bid UEFA and French authorities to blame the overcrowding at the turnstiles on people trying to gain access to the stadium with fake tickets on Saturday.
The start of the showpiece game of the European football season, which Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid, was delayed by 37 minutes and kicked off as security still grappled with the stream of frustrated fans in the Stade de France.
UEFA claimed there were thousands of ticketless fans trying to gain access to the more than 80,000-seat French national stadium, but did not identify where they came from.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin claimed stewards for being assaulted by Britons who forced entry without a ticket or with counterfeit tickets. French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra also ignored authorities’ shortcomings, saying thousands of England fans “complicated the work of stewards and police forces” and tweeting: “Violence has not its place in the stadiums”.
Liverpool have said they are “extremely disappointed” with the security issues faced by their fans.
Angry Liverpool fans held in queues were seen clinging to railings and heard shouting: “Let us in. We have tickets.”
There have been numerous instances of fans breaching security and attempting to enter the stadium. The Associated Press saw two fans – one wearing a Liverpool outfit – being thrashed on the floor by stewards and being carried out of the gates.
Three other fans were seen evading the stewards and sprinting into the lobby and lower level of the stadium. Other people, wearing no obvious club attire, scaled the fences instead as Liverpool fans yelled at them to get off.
The final kicked off despite fans still trying to get through ticket checks. Fresh tear gas canisters were fired by riot police from inside the security perimeter at people outside the fences. Police officers and stewards were seen falling to the ground, hit by the eye-irritating substances.
There was anger in the Liverpool squad after losing the final.
“Almost all of our families have been affected I think,” said Liverpool defender Andy Robertson. “Obviously my tickets had gone through the club and somehow someone told a friend of mine that he had a fake ticket, which I can tell you. sure, definitely wasn’t because it was obviously by me.
“So obviously the French police decided to throw tear gas at the fans and the families. It’s not well organized. »
Merseyside Police, the force covering Liverpool, tweeted that “fan behavior at the turnstiles was exemplary in shocking circumstances”.
Fan Colm Lacey saw “kids crying, people trapped” outside the entrances.
“People started jumping the queue, then they opened the door and then there was a push,” Lacey said.
About 15 minutes before the scheduled 9 p.m. local time kick-off, an announcement was made that there would be a delay, blaming the late arrival of fans at the stadium. He was greeted with mockery inside the stadium, given that those fans had already endured long queues. The match finally started at 9:37 p.m.
“We’ve been at that gate since 6:15 a.m.,” Liverpool fan Angela Murphy told the AP through a fence. “I have very bad asthma and I was gassed twice. I really have a hard time.
When asked what caused the tear gas, Murphy replied, “Nothing, we’re here. There was nothing. It’s just awful. We behaved well.
Police with batons and riot shields ran from door to door to prevent pockets of supporters from forcing entry into the stadium without showing tickets. A police officer collapsed and had to be assisted by other officers. Officers used tear gas on Liverpool fans on several occasions.
A Liverpool fan kissed his ticket and looked skyward after finally clearing security.
Liverpool supporter Joe Moorcroft has complained about being treated like animals.
” It’s a shame. We’ve seen this before, it’s a health risk,” he said. “We have seen this and it will happen again. I feel it now. They fired tear gas into the ventilators.
UEFA said it was “sympathetic to those affected” and announced an urgent examination by French police and authorities as well as the French Football Federation.
“During the match, the turnstiles on the Liverpool side were blocked by thousands of fans who bought fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles,” UEFA said in a statement.
“This created a backlog of fans trying to get in. As a result, kick-off was delayed for 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access. While the number of people outside the stadium continued to pile up after kick-off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.
Liverpool want an official investigation.
“We are extremely disappointed with the stadium entry issues and breach of security perimeter that Liverpool supporters have faced,” the club said in a statement. “It’s the biggest game in European football and fans shouldn’t have to experience the scenes we witnessed tonight.”
The scenes were reminiscent of the chaos outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the European Championship final last year. This was largely due to England fans aggressively trying to enter their stadium for the game Italy won.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports