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French minister apologises to Liverpool fans for bringing back ‘painful’ Hillsborough memories

France’s sports minister has apologised to Liverpool supporters in a letter sent to the club after chaos marred the Champions League final, and admitted it may have reminded some of ‘painful memories’ of the Hillsborough disaster.

The match at the Stade de France in Paris was twice delayed and fans found themselves tear-gassed by police while they waited outside the ground.

In the aftermath, however, the French government attempted to blame the issues on Liverpool fans, who they claimed turned up holding counterfeit tickets.

But a 30-page report was commissioned by the French prime minister, and accepted that there were 1,644 fake tickets in the Liverpool contingent, and an overall total of 2,589. It has also blamed operational failures and poor signage for the fiasco.

Now, Amelie Oudea-Castera conceded there were ‘several successive failures’ by the authorities around the stadium, resulting in the distressing scenes. The stance represents a major shift, after the minister partly blamed Liverpool for the storm.

Indeed, she had told radio station RTL in the aftermath of the final that the Anfield club were guilty of struggling to organise their supporters properly, and also alleged there were 30,000 to 40,000 Reds fans without tickets around the venue. 

French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has apologised to Liverpool fans for Paris chaos

Supporters were left stuck outside the Stade de France for hours and tear-gassed by police

Supporters were left stuck outside the Stade de France for hours and tear-gassed by police

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner wrote to voice his ‘utter disbelief’ at the comments from Oudea-Castera, who has now issued an apology in her reply. 

Her letter, which has been seen by The Times, reads: ‘First and foremost, I would like to sincerely apologise to the Liverpool fans whose evening was ruined. 

‘We are conscious of the fact that many of them came from far away, often with their family and sometimes even young children, to support their team and attend a memorable game of football.

‘We regret that some of them had to witness scenes that have no place at all at a sporting event, all the more so as we are aware that it may have brought back particularly painful memories from your club’s history.’

But police chiefs in France have since defended their decision to use tear gas on innocent fans

But police chiefs in France have since defended their decision to use tear gas on innocent fans

Reds supporters were pictured masking themselves from the gas while queuing at the venue

Reds supporters were pictured masking themselves from the gas while queuing at the venue

Oudea-Castera has looked to assure Liverpool chiefs that an investigation conducted by the French authorities would delve how the situation spiralled out of control and ‘make sure that it will never happen again’.

The Times have also reported that the Merseyside club are concerned figures in France still believe a ‘large and hard-to-anticipate number of counterfeit tickets carried by British supporters’ was the ‘primary cause of the incidents’.

She has offered to meet Werner in person, after he took aim at the ‘unproven pronouncements on a matter of such significance before a proper, formal and independent investigation process has even taken place’.

He went on to describe the remarks as being ‘irresponsible, unprofessional and wholly disrespectful to the thousands of fans harmed physically and emotionally.’ 

Oudea-Castera has looked to assure Liverpool that an investigation would prevent a repeat

Oudea-Castera has looked to assure Liverpool that an investigation would prevent a repeat

French officials claimed tens of thousands of fans had turned up for the match with fake tickets, presenting two near-identical passes while claiming one was a forgery (right)

French officials claimed tens of thousands of fans had turned up for the match with fake tickets, presenting two near-identical passes while claiming one was a forgery (right)

UEFA has begun its probe into the final, a stance which will be welcomed by Liverpool, who have also launched their own investigation. So far, around 9,000 harrowing accounts have been handed over to the club by fans who were in Paris.

In the background, though, French officials have persistently defended their actions. This week, the country’s police chief Didier Lallement stood by the use of tear gas.

‘I’m fully aware people of good faith were gassed, even families,’ Lallement said.

‘I’m sorry but there were no other means. The only way was to gas people. 

Paris police chief Didier Lallement stood by the tear gas, saying 'there were no other means'

Paris police chief Didier Lallement stood by the tear gas, saying ‘there were no other means’ 

‘I asked for gas to be used.’ 

He also claimed that, without tear gas, officers on site would have had to have charged the crowd to stop them gaining access to the stadium, adding: ‘It would have been a mistake to charge people. It would have been devastating.’

Lallement went on to allege thousands with fake tickets were ‘not in sight of CCTV cameras’. It has since emerged the authorities failed to obtain CCTV recordings, as they were not claimed by the courts within the legal period of seven days. 

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