How the French could have stopped the problem in Paris

By Tony Attwood

One of the great benefits that the French football authorities have in putting forward their notion that 70% of the tickets presented at the Champions League final was fake, is the awareness that English journalists are well, to put it bluntly, not very clever and mostly mathematically illiterate.

If 70 percent of the tickets were fake then, given a day or two, you might have thought that even an English football could work out that this meant that 30 per cent of the tickets were actually real.

Now we know that there are 80,000 seats in the stadium and so that (in the 70 percent fake scenario would represent 30 per cent of those present.)    If these were spread around the stadium that would give us 266,666 people on site.  80,000 will real tickets and around 186,000 fake tickets.

But the prefecture which is handling the investigation has said that the number of fake tickets was only 30,000 to 40,000.

Now prior to the game the Daily Mail said “‘The atmosphere here is boss, the city is red’: 50,000 Liverpool fans descend on Paris ahead of Champions League final against Real Madrid, with many travelling to the French capital without a ticket just to soak up the atmosphere”

The Mail continued and remember this was published long before people started heading for the stadium, “As many as 50,000 supporters, largely ticketless, began gathering early during the day, some starting the drinking from 7am, bringing traffic in the area to a standstill as roads were closed off.”

Now that was published on the afternoon of the day before the game, so before we saw any incidents.

Of course it could have been a guess by the Mail, which was then taken up by the French authorities as the truth, in which case it was a bit naughty of the Mail printing a guess as a fact.  Or it could have been that their estimate of 50,000 ticketless fans in Paris was right.

Either way that number lived on in the narrative of an article that spends a lot of time talking about the level of drunkenness in the city, which itself might explain a) why the ticketless fans were stupid enough to believe there were real tickets on sale, and b) why so many of them tried to enter to ground.

Now the rest of the English media deny this whole scenario by ignoring the Mail’s story about how many Liverpool supporters there were in the area with a reporter saying, “Not a single Liverpool fan came up to me and said they had been sold a fake ticket.”   But then, would they?

On the other hand the radio station Europe 1, said that the national division of fight against hooliganism DNLH had warned in advance (which is to say long before the game) about the risks that presented this final, including the presence of “50,000 fans without tickets” in the French capital.

But what the media in England generally isn’t getting into is the fact that some Liverpool fans, like the rest of us will have noted that people gained access to the Euro final at Wembley by forcing the turnstiles and various access doors through sheer weight of numbers.   That disaster of a game organised by the FA was seen as a triumph for ticketless fans and the matter was noted by everyone organising a match in which a team from England plays overseas and supporters.

There is no doubt that in Paris the police and the ground authorities were completely overwhelmed by the situation.   Exactly as happened at Wembley.  This means that no one has yet learned a lesson concerning what can happen on big footballing occasions.

None of this is simply to blame Liverpool fans for going to Paris.  They are perfectly free to go to Paris if they like.   But seeing what happened at Wembley for the Euro final the French authorities could have organised things much better – and if the ground selected for the final was not suitable for defending itself against the sort of onslaught that Wembley had, then they ought to have either chosen another ground, or, on hearing there was to be an English team in the final, declined the invitation and taken a fine from Uefa.

That last action might have gained them a lot of bad publicity but it would have shown the rest of football that it is possible to say “no” – we really don’t want to face that kind of situation here. 


8 Replies to “How the French could have stopped the problem in Paris”

  1. I think that what happened at the Champions League final was completely predictable. Large numbers of Liverpool fans trying to force their way into a ground hosting a big game is what happens every time. It’s been happening for over 30 years.

  2. It’s far too easy to lump blame on Liverpool supporters and it seems to me that this article has been written not just because the author clearly has a bias but also it’s lazy to tar every Liverpool supporter with the same brush.

    Goodness knows why but when a club gets to finals for some strange reason supporters who haven’t got tickets feel almost drawn to the city where that final will be played. I guess they want to be able to claim that they were there. That desire isn’t unique to Liverpool indeed the fans zones set up in Paris anticipated tens of thousands from both clubs to turn up ticketless which is exactly what happened.

    Before you even mention the organisation outside the stadium it’s worth talking about the problems at the French domestic cup final at the same venue on 8 May. The ticket scanning system failed and erroneously identified hundreds of valid tickets as being fakes.

    Anyone that’s been to football in France will tell you the police are dressed to intimidate, they are aggressive and treat supporters as if the are animals. They aren’t alone in that and perhaps they are justified in some instances but their actions are not based on what they are dealing with on the day but what they have had to deal with in the past. Perhaps that’s justified but that approach carry’s great risk in terms of those law abiding, civilised and valid ticket holders.

    So to matters outside the stadium.

    No one no matter which team they support should fear for their life because they simply attended a football match

    We could debate all day Hillsborough but there is absolutely no do doubt that however or by whom dozens of innocent people with tickets died. Thankfully it doesn’t appear that anyone lost their life in Paris but you can’t simply ignore the evidence that clearly shows the French authorities funnelled Liverpool supporters through a restricted area, then the system on place and the number of stewards deployed to facilitate access past initial check points was woefully under resourced.

    If whoever was in charge couldn’t see the potential for harm or agitation on a hot day when thousands of supporters ( the vast vast majority who had valid tickets ) were in effect corralled then they really need to change jobs.

    Blame Liverpool supporters as a group for many things such as being arrogant but when the police use CS gas, use pepper spray in such confined areas some will say it serves them right but it really doesn’t.

  3. @West Stand Lower,

    I believe you are confusing Tony’s opinion of incompetence inside football organisations with anything specific against supporters in general. Tony has been regularly criticising Arsenal for how is can mismanage the way the Emirates is run and how little respect even they sometimes have for their own supporters, so it is not like he has a specific axe to grind against supporters from other clubs.

    Fact is that Liverpool (the club, the organisation) has requested paper tickets whereas everyone knows it opens the door to all sorts of shenanigans. Why on earth UEFA accepted is beyond my understanding. Sure enough, this led to issues at control points and was one of the ‘sparks’ that started this. How can you explain that some VIPs could not get in because their tickets were seen as fakes ? Simply because the fake ticket had been used before they tried to gain entry seems a simple and logical explanation. Or they were given forgeries. At that point the one question NO ONE is asking is : how could these tickets be produced and how could Pool! let them be produced as they were the ones who wanted them.

    As you say, any final attracts all sorts of people, supporters and villains/thugs who for totally different reasons want to be part of the celebration. The issue is – and I’ve lived in Paris and witnessed english, scottish, wales, irish fans present during football or rugby events – the level of drinking was appaling, and, this comes from my observations, the worst agressivity I witnessed was the combination english and football. Yes there are other fans. But these are the most visible and create very bad publicity.

    France has its own issue with 1) unruly/violent or even ultra violent fans 2) cops being totally brutal and indescriminate when handling crowds – partly as a result of the violence they are subjected to on a daily basis 3) have had to deal with a few terrorist incidents at large venues in the past decade 4) have a little minority throwing wrenches into any large scale event by starting some strike. And sure enough, there is a level of incompetence as well in all ministries and other official.

    Add to that total incompetence or the organisers who DO NOT CARE about supporters, just want the money, the VIP seats and the pictures in newspapers. In this they are not much different then what we have seen for decades in England.

    This all to say that Tony points the finder at these organisation much more then at supporters.

    However, there is still something no one has answered or even adressed :

    why in the world die tens of thousands Real fans NOT have problems and only Pool! fans have them ?

    I read only one piece that explained that the organisation on Real’s side was much more present and ‘framing’ – supporters were ‘supported’, it was organised. Maybe because Real supporters are ‘socios’ (they actually own their club), and not just paying spectators, they are being considered and treated with more respect by the organisation they own. What does Pool! have to say about this ? It’s their fans who sing ‘ you’ll never walk alone’, but apparently the club could have cared less and let them do the alone walking.

    Which brings us back to the general attitude of many or most english clubs’ organisations and owners towards their supporters : total disdain and disrespect, please pass along the money and shut the f..k up.

  4. completely agree with you Chris. And being from Belgium Liverpool and finals bring a bad taste to my mouth…. Heysel… never forget…

  5. @Walter

    I must say that I’ve not often seen crowds run onto the pitch in the PL, except the event with City were the Aston Vila keeper got into trouble if I remember it right (where is the stadium ban for chrissake ?). And as the press does NOT report on any issue that does not fit the PL narrative, maybe thre is lots more mayhem but we don’t get to see it.

    Thus the french authorities maybe thought that this was far less bad then what they face every week-end and were not prepared for it. There still is this to me inadequate label of sportsmanship’ attached to PL football even after the dramas as you’ve justly pointed out. Guess the censoring happening in the PL was and still is efficient and lured everyone into a false sense of security.

  6. I just went back into the guardian’s pages and just found one piece about the Aston Villa goalie getting hit in the face by City fans – and Aston Villa had lost.
    Just ONE article about a player getting physically assaoulted. That’s all.

    And the mention that 2 men were charged. City will get away with it, you can bet your arse. Where is a full blwn parliamentary inquiry into the incident ? Where is the ongoing scandal until it has been resolved ?

    This just to show how selective and wag-the-dog the so-called Uk press is. Any Pool player would have been touched by a real fan and they’d be howling for a real to be banned or having to play on neutral ground with no fans.

    They have been groomed by the PL, FA, PGMOL to be just a sort of PR outlet and have forgotten what their job description is.

  7. Hillsborough was a disaster and it is rightly remembered. But, so was Heysel and I, as an Arsenal fan have to bite my tongue when Liverpool fans go on and on about them always being victims.

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