“The story has had a high profile in the French media for a month with the vast majority of observers concluding that blame lies with the organisers and police.”
Image: Getty Images)
Something happened in the French Senate this week which was an eye-opener for those of us who have spent decades watching football fans discarded as an irrelevance.
Senior politicians invited some of them to talk about the disgraceful failures in their own system at an event that happened on their watch less than a month ago.
They allowed foreigners to berate their police for treating visitors to their country like animals, call for their Interior Minister to resign for blatantly lying and warn that, as it stands, Paris is unfit to host any major sporting events. Then they gave them a heart-felt standing ovation.
That took place on Tuesday when Ted Morris, chair of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters’ Association, and Joe Blott, chair of fans’ group Spirit of Shankly plus a Real Madrid fan told French parliamentarians of the “horrendous experience” of attending last month’s Champions League final at the Stade de France.
Morris, a wheelchair user, told how a 14-year-old boy with a congenital disorder was tear-gassed, a blind man was chased by bottle-throwing gangs, a disabled woman was “grotesquely assaulted” and an eight-year-old autistic boy was separated from his father and crushed outside a gate.
The story has had a high profile in the French media for a month with the vast majority of observers concluding that blame lies with the organisers and police. As the chair of the cross-party inquiry, Senator François-Noël Buffet, said on Tuesday: “English football fans were not the cause of these problems. Let’s say that clearly. They showed great control in chaotic surroundings.”
But what of UEFA who have yet to apologise to Liverpool for falsely blaming the late arrival of their fans for delaying the kick-off of the biggest club game in the world? Well, like the CCTV footage from outside the Stade de France, their integrity has gone missing, in a quite disturbing manner.
On Tuesday their events CEO Martin Kanner was still trying to shift blame on to the fans as he made a series of bizarre claims about fake tickets, fears that Liverpool supporters would invade the pitch and bad behaviour of a ticketless mob outside the stadium.
As he waffled on, sticking to his blame-shifting narrative without offering a scintilla of evidence, he was interrupted by a congressman who said: “Fake tickets were not the main problem. There was the transport strike, the flow management problems, the interventions of the police, the problems of delinquency around the stadium. Speaking only of forgeries is not right.”
Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)
French politicians armed with the facts telling UEFA their excuses are rank is the ultimate humiliation for them in this scandalous debacle. As Joe Blott told me yesterday: “UEFA are continuing to come across as absolutely shameless and absolutely clueless. Stop lying. Stop digging. Just own what happened.”
It beggars belief that with overpowering video evidence and first-hand accounts from Liverpool and Madrid fans, neutrals and global media, which confirm a major catastrophe almost occurred due to organisational chaos, that UEFA continue to blame the victims. It’s extraordinary that they carry on attacking their own customers, some of whom paid more than £600 for tickets to attend their Blue Riband event.
Why would they side with discredited police chiefs and backside-covering elements in the French government at the expense of people they like to call their “lifeblood”?
Why? Because they are a shambolic, amoral, self-interested mafia whose only concern is survival. And the profits that brings. So how can their so-called “independent review” into the Paris chaos be trusted?
Indeed, without a clear admission of their failings and an apology to fans they slandered, they cannot be trusted to organise any major event again.
Ted Morris said of the Parisian gangs that preyed on him that “they saw us as human cashpoints.” But he could easily have been talking about UEFA. That is how they view everyone attending their competitions who don’t sit in the corporate hospitality seats. As nothing more than an inconvenience to be fleeced.
I’d love them to prove me wrong. But unlike when I was crushed outside the Stade de France last month, I’m not holding my breath.
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