The UEFA Champions League Final in Paris between Liverpool and Real Madrid in May 2022 was almost a ‘a mass fatality catastrophe’ according to a review of the day.
In a foreword, the panel chair Dr Tiago Rodrigues stressed that fans were the victims of the May 28 at the Stade de France in St Denis. He described the affair as a ‘near miss’ that ‘should never have happened at such an important sporting event’.
The managing of the final’s was based on operational plans for the French Cup Final, at the stadium on May 7. “This was an arrangement made without recourse to the UEFA Safety & Security Unit,” the panel reported, and was ‘an inappropriate shortcut without rigorous oversight. Most importantly, the UEFA S&S Unit never received any operational plan for the French Cup Final or May 28.”
That was, the panel added, despite the need for communication and joint working during a ‘truncated’ planning period. The final was taken away from the city of Saint Petersburg after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022; French President Macron agreed Paris could host. That ‘shortened planning period’ of three months, the panel found, was a ‘key factor’ behind the day’s failures; a typical planning period for such an event was 18 months.
UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis said: “On behalf of UEFA, I would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded on what should have been a celebration at the pinnacle of the club season. In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool FC for the experiences many of them had when attending the game and for the messages released prior to and during the game which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.”
“UEFA is committed to learning from the events of 28 May, and will cooperate closely with supporters’ groups, the finalist clubs, the host associations and local authorities to deliver outstanding finals where everyone can enjoy the game in a safe, secure and welcoming environment.”
UEFA says it will announce separately a refund scheme for fans.
Planners appear to have concluded at a very early stage, according to the review, from March, ‘that the influx of large numbers of supporters was not something to be welcomed and facilitated but was being viewed as a threat to public order’.
A May 5 meeting perceived a threat of ‘hosting up to 50,000 Liverpool supporters without tickets’. Whereas in the immediate aftermath of the final fans trying to enter without tickets were blamed for the queues, delayed kick-off and crushing, the panel concluded that ‘there is no evidence of an abnormally large number of ‘ticketless supporters’ or supporters with invalid tickets’. On the evidence, the panel judged there were not more counterfeit tickets at the 2022 final than at similar events.
The panel members were Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Ronan Evain, Amanda Jacks, Frank Paauw, Daniel Ribeiro, Kenny Scott, Luis Silva, the academic studier of football crowds Prof Clifford Stott of Keele University, and Pete Weatherby KC.
The 220-page report makes no connection to the Euro final at Wembley in July 2021 between England and Italy that saw widespread rioting and successful efforts at ticketless entry, that a review for the Football Association also categorised as a ‘near miss’ though without casualties. Besides the report is an appendix of some 2800 pages of evidence, such as testimony and maps.
See also the November print edition of Professional Security Magazine.