What REALLY happened before the Champions League final at the Stade de France in Paris

The chaos experienced by fans at the Champions League final in Paris last May was triggered by a technological meltdown combined with erroneous pre-match messaging and negligent crowd control, The Mail on Sunday can reveal after a three-month investigation.

Technology failure, identified by multiple fan witnesses and which was raised as a major concern by fans’ groups meeting with UEFA’s independent review yesterday in Liverpool, precipitated much of the chaos, but was exacerbated by the crowd control error, which saw 37,000 Liverpool fans directed to an entrance designed for about 10,000 to 12,000 fans.

Law firm Binghams are bringing a suit against UEFA on behalf of 1,450 fans alleging negligence, and UEFA’s Independent Review is due to report in November. The findings contradict French interior minister Gerald Darmanin, who attempted to blame ticketless fans, and UEFA’s initial take, which was to blame for the late arrival of supporters.

The MoS has compiled a 12,000-word report of the chaos, which we will make available online and which will be submitted to Dr Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, the chair of the independent review, after we were contacted by huge numbers of Liverpool fans following our initial reporting.

The report is based on interviews with more than 40 eyewitnesses, with accompanying video footage, and the report from Le Delegue Interministeriel aux Grands Evenements Sportifs (DIGES) and the findings of the French Senate.

At last May’s event, failure of ticket scanners and a tech meltdown caused abnormal queues, overcrowding and a loss of control by the authorities, with aggressive stewards assuming that scanning failures meant they were dealing with multiple forgeries, when in fact tickets were genuine. Indeed, fans with both paper and digital tickets were denied entry and have yet to receive compensation.

The problems also meant some stewards allowed hundreds of fans to crawl in beneath turnstiles, because they judged their tickets legitimate. Though well intentioned, as they recognised the dangerous crush behind them, their actions meant authorities then lost control of how many legitimate ticket holders were in the stadium.

Emotional Liverpool fans, including a child in tears, outside the Stade de France back in May 

At this point, about 7pm, it should have been clear to authorities they had lost control and would need to delay or postpone the match. Instead an announcement was made at 8.46pm local time, just 14 minutes before kick-off, and then only a 15-minute delay was announced.

The situation was then made worse by outdated policing, based on decades-old prejudices, and this was exploited by local criminals, leading to the indiscriminate tear gassing by police, which ironically added to the breakdown of order.

The accounts given by eyewitnesses describe an anarchic situation where authorities lost their nerve, abandoned controls and used tear gas as a default response to attempt to mitigate earlier mistakes. The lack of control from the authorities continued post match, when criminals attacked Real Madrid and Liverpool fans.

Ironically, given that Darmanin and UEFA said that a contributory factor to crowd control issues was Liverpool insisting on issuing paper tickets for their fans rather than digital tickets, failure to scan digital tickets was just as much of a problem and the verification process, which required Bluetooth to be activated and which meant a ticket was not activated until verified by a steward.

Several Liverpool fans tried to show the police their tickets to get into the ground quickly

Several Liverpool fans tried to show the police their tickets to get into the ground quickly

However, because many of these initial checks were abandoned amid the chaos, people arrived at turnstiles with tickets that would not scan. That made stewards either hostile and aggressive or led to the necessity of letting fans climb over or under turnstiles. It also may account for the incorrect ‘forged tickets’ narrative gaining currency.

Martin Kallen, CEO of UEFA Events, the logistical arm of UEFA who run the major finals, told the French Senate inquiry that other technology failures may have played a part in the chaos. ‘Numerous counterfeit tickets have been detected at the outer perimeter leading stewards to believe that the chemical pen was faulty,’ said Kallen. Indeed, this problem had already been flagged by security at 5pm, an hour before the gates opened, though apparently nothing was done to rectify it.

The problems scanning tickets was apparent at all gates and is also reported by Real Madrid fans. It became worse at the Liverpool end because of errors in managing the crowd and not adjusting plans drawn up before a rail strike was announced.

The game was delayed for 35 minutes as scenes outside the ground disrupted proceedings

The game was delayed for 35 minutes as scenes outside the ground disrupted proceedings

The worst problems were on Ave du President Wilson, which had become the main approach to the stadium for almost all Liverpool fans due to messaging prior to the game. Because of a strike by some French train workers, mixed messaging had supporters believing that the RER B, La Plaine Stade de France station would be closed or not fully functioning. It was in fact working but not at full capacity. However, according to the Senate’s initial inquiry, from about 3.30pm, messages on the UEFA App and at stations were telling fans to use RER D and avoid RER B.

Le Monde’s investigations, with access to official transport figures, say 37,000 fans tried to access the stadium from that station, four times more than the usual number.

UEFA maps issued pre-match made clear that Liverpool fans arriving from the Line D Stade De France station should have proceeded along Ave Francois Mitterrand, cross over Ave du President Wilson and keep going east, before turning left into Ave du Stade de France, where there was another ticket check, which according to fans was staffed with more stewards than at Gate X.

But virtually all the 37,000 fans arriving at that station turned left into Ave du President Wilson.

Witness accounts said most police were unhelpful, and even hostile, towards Liverpool's fans

Witness accounts said most police were unhelpful, and even hostile, towards Liverpool’s fans 

Witness accounts also mentioned the hostility and unhelpfulness of most police, the complete lack of information to fans outside the ground and lack of proactive stewarding. Even when kick-off was delayed, it was only announced to those inside the stadium.

The chaos and crime prior to the game was a prelude to what was to come, when Real Madrid and Liverpool fans were set upon by local gangs, highlighting the unwillingness, or inability, of French police to maintain control.

The Senate report said the overall organisation was ‘based on an outdated vision of British fans reminiscent of the Eighties hooligans. Public officials were therefore almost exclusively focused on maintaining order ticketless fans outside the stadium’.

Pre-match intelligence equated the Hillsborough Disaster with hooliganism and suggested Liverpool fans might invade the pitch.

The Mail on Sunday has made a series of recommendations to UEFA and is willing to enter into a dialogue with the federation, on the understanding that they want to and need to learn from the mistakes.

UEFA wants to learn from the incident in Paris, which saw some fans injured or traumatised

UEFA wants to learn from the incident in Paris, which saw some fans injured or traumatised

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