‘Maybe I was wrong’ — Paris police chief apologizes for Champions League policing ‘failure’ which saw soccer fans tear-gassed by authorities and robbed by local gangs

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

A Paris police chief has apologized for the French authorities’ “failure” to effectively police this year’s Champions League final at the Stade de France in Paris.

European club soccer’s flagship event was marred by disturbing scenes outside of France’s national stadium in the troubled multicultural Parisian commune of Saint-Denis on May 28, as primarily Liverpool supporters were denied entry onto the premises and tear-gassed by authorities, while others were victims of assault and robbery by local gangs, which police sources said were made up primarily of Middle Easterners and Africans.

Speaking at the French Senate on Thursday, police chief Didier Lallement called his officers’ handling of the event a “failure,” and apologized for the use of pepper spray and tear gas on football fans who had been made to wait hours to enter the stadium.

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“It is obviously a failure,” Lallement said. “It was a failure because people were pushed around and attacked. It was a failure because the image of the country was undermined.”

The police leader also addressed spurious claims previously made by French authorities, including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who suggested that up to 40,000 Liverpool fans who allegedly arrived at the stadium with either no ticket or counterfeit tickets — a claim which to date no concrete evidence has been produced to substantiate.

Lallement admitted to French lawmakers the 40,000 figure previously claimed by French authorities “has no scientific virtue but it came from feedback from police and public transport officials.”

“Maybe I was wrong, but it was constructed from all the information harvested,” Lallement added.

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“Whether there are 30,000 or 40,000 people, it doesn’t change anything. What matters is that there were people, in large numbers, likely to disrupt the proper organization of the filtering. But that we count them precisely to within 5,000, it doesn’t change much.”

The rhetoric from French authorities has backtracked somewhat from Darmanin’s initial claim that British football supporters had partaken in “fraud on an industrial scale” to acquire thousands of counterfeit tickets to the sporting event.

The comments were not well received in both London and Liverpool, with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding an official investigation into the mayhem that had ensued, in addition to club and police officials on Merseyside.

Nor were the remarks generally believed at home, with 76 percent of French people remaining unconvinced by Darmanin’s explanation for the sequence of events that unfolded, according to an Odoxa Backbone Consulting poll conducted for Le Figaro newspaper.

Richard Bouigue, a local deputy mayor in Paris subsequently addressed a letter to Liverpool supporters in which he apologized for the “dysfunctions in the organization of the game and the lack of maintenance or order that led to this real fiasco.”

An independent review, to which governing body UEFA has pledged its full cooperation to, is now underway.

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