The law firm representing thousands of Liverpool fans who were affected by the chaos of the 2022 Champions League Final at the Stade de France has given UEFA a week to compensate their clients.
CHAOS at the Stade de France
On the 28th May 2022, Liverpool and Real Madrid travelled to Saint–Denis in Paris to battle it out in the UEFA Champions League Final.
Real Madrid won the game 1-0 via a Vinicius Júnior finish in the 59th minute. The scoreline isn’t why Liverpool fans will remember this particular matchup though, with the carnage running up to the match overshadowing any of the football.
It started with what seemed a relatively minor inconvenience for the thousands of travelling Liverpool faithful – subway strikes on the line they had been directed to use to travel to the stadium meant that they had to use an alternate line.
This meant that they would arrive at Saint-Denis station, instead of their originally planned station. This however would be the catalyst for what would come next for the unfortunate fans who found themselves re-routed.
The Stade de France has two wide entrances, one on the north end and one on the south. The Madrid fans were allocated the northern side, and Liverpool’s the South.
The original station that the B line would have taken the Kopites to would have given them a wide and relatively short road of travel from the subway to the Southern entrance that was allocated to them.
Because, however, they were now departing at Saint-Denis station, they had to take a much longer and narrower route through a more built up area to access the stadium.
The French Football Federation, who were in charge of organisation of the final, had placed road signs to guide the Liverpool fans to their entrance from the subway stop, but when the throngs of fans arrived at the station, there were no signs.
It turned out that the local police had decided to change the route last minute and direct the Liverpool fans into an even more narrow and twisting urban path to the stadium. On top of this, they had allocated a new entrance for them, which had only 5 search lanes and was much smaller than the intended main entrance.
This new route kettled the Liverpool supporters into the narrow channel leading up to the inadequate perimeter check, and things started to get ugly.
As more and more fans piled into the narrow passageway to wards the stadium, and the checks on fans’ tickets and belongings becoming increasingly impossible to accomplish, a crush started to form. Liverpool’s travelling fans began to fear for their safety, and many their lives, as the pressure of the ever increasing crowd began to become unbearable.
To make things worse, the local police had deliberately (and inexplicably) parked a riot van either side of the entrance to the security checks, blocking people from escaping the crush from the side and get to safety.
The mounting pressure became too much for the squashed fans, who began to attempt to scale a tall concrete wall in order to relieve some of the pressure at the front of the crowd. Police had blocked off every other avenue to the stadium at this point.
Eventually, police and security gave up on completing searches altogether, and allowed the entire crowd to make their way towards the Stade de France. This not only allowed legitimate ticket holders to enter the grounds of the stadium, but also crowds of local thugs without tickets.
With the perimeter checks having failed so miserably – the security measure put in place specifically to stop such large amounts of foot traffic approaching the stadium entrances all at once – the anxious crowd of fans made their way to the turnstiles.
Things got even worse for Liverpool’s travelling support when they arrived at the turnstiles. They found them locked, and were once again subjected to being trapped at a dead end with the mass of fellow fans coming in from behind and creating a crush.
To make matters worse, the factions of local thugs that sauntered through the security-less checkpoints now began to target the travelling fans. Local police reported that they had witnessed over 300 incidents of robbery and violence towards tourists at the stadium whilst they were locked out from entering.
As the pressure of the trapped crowd began to mount again, police put the final cherry on top of the awful cake that this day had baked for Liverpool fans. They were videoed persistently spraying the trapped supporters with pepper spray, often directly in the face.
The crowd was unable to move back, and harrowing footage from the day shows both adults and young children suffering from the effects of the spray, which the French police officers were using continuously upon the thousands of trapped Liverpudlians.
As if the day could not get any worse for Liverpool, UEFA also made the decision to postpone the kickoff of the final as a result of the chaos at the turnstiles and even had the gall to blame the Kopites for the delay!
A message put up on the electronic display board in the stadium stated that the delayed kickoff was due to the “late arrival of fans”. This infuriated the Liverpool’s crowds outside the stadium, who had been kettled in and assaulted for nearly 4 hours trying to access the stadium by the time the announcement was put out.
The match eventually kicked off at 21:36 with fans finally inside the stadium – 36 minutes after it should have, despite UEFA’s stating that the delay would be 15 minutes.
The perimeter of the pitch saw an army of French riot police officers monitor a Liverpool crowd who, despite all that they had been out through, did the name of English football proud and did not retaliate against the over-kill security that had assaulted them just half an hour before.
How could this happen?
After the game, UEFA once again had the gall to point the blame for the pre-match catastrophe towards Liverpool’s supporters. In an official statement, they blamed the matter on the fact that “The turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles”
French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin also said in a statement that the carnage was cause by “30,000-40,000 Liverpool fans with forged or no tickets”. Daminan claimed that there had been an “industrial scale ticket fraud”.
Despite this claim, video footage from the stadium and from supporters does not reflect the scale of the problem that Darminan and UEFA describe, and the statements (as you might imagine) incensed those affected by the chaos that day.
It was also discovered after the match that French police had misunderstood the events of the Hillsborough disaster, and were under the impression that Liverpool fans were a high hooligan threat.
This is despite intelligence given to them prior to the match by Merseyside Police stating that the opposite was in fact true, and the travelling support offered no more of a risk than any other tourists would. This is why the local police brought such a huge amount of force and decided to change the route to the stadium, as well as the entrance that the Liverpool fans would be guided to.
This week, UEFA was found by an independent panel commissioned by European football’s governing body to have “primary responsibility” for the events before the 2022 UCL Final. The organisation has apologised to fans on both sides, but has not yet accepted responsibility for the panel’s verdict.
A group litigation firm called Pogus Goodhead along with Bingham Solicitors, who specialise in personal injury law, are acting on behalf of more than 1000 fans who were affected by the carnage outside the Stade de France. It has been reported that another 1000+ will be joining the claim soon.
The firms have given UEFA a week to compensate their clients and will pursue legal action against them should they refuse. A letter was sent to Simon Drake, Cerefin & UEFA’s general counsel by Pogus Goodhead, giving the organisation until next Friday to respond.
A further 600 Liverpool fans are also being represented by solicitors Leigh Day, who said this week that they were “looking to commence the legal process as soon as possible”
A “Special refund scheme” was promised by UEFA, but it was insisted by the aforementioned legal teams that simply reimbursing the cost of a match ticket was nowhere near enough to compensate fans for what they went through on that day.
We’ll keep you updated as we hear more!