The 2022 Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid which took place at the Stade de France in Paris was marred with controversy and “almost led to disaster”, an independent report commissioned by UEFA has found.
The match, which took place on May 28 2022, was delayed by more than 35 minutes after Liverpool fans struggled to enter the Stade de France and tear gas was used by French police towards supporters, including women and children, held in tightly packed areas. The treatment of the Liverpool fans caused panic and crushing around security barriers which could have easily resulted in serious injury and even death.
The initial blame was apportioned to Liverpool fans who were said to have turned up late and were using fake tickets. The report has quashed these claims and the authorities have been criticised for taking this line. The actual issue was that valid tickets were not recognised at the turnstiles.
In response to the report UEFA have issued an apology to Liverpool fans and admitted “primary responsibility” as the event owner, Although blame was also apportioned to French Football Federation (FFF) because of their role of ensuring public safety.
Liverpool fans were not to blame
The 220-page review followed an investigation chaired by Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, a member of Portugal’s parliament, and had a panel including legal, policing and event-management consultants as well as representatives from fan groups, which outlined 21 recommendations.
The report found that “assertions regarding huge numbers of ticketless supporters, and those with fake tickets, have been wrongly inflated and have been stated as fact, to deflect responsibility for the planning and operational failures of stakeholders,” and described that deflection from UEFA, UEFA Events SA, the FFF, the Préfecture de Police and French ministers as “reprehensible.”
Police were also blamed for not being proactive enough in intervening when locals – who tried to climb fences and jump turnstiles – attacked fans, and for being over-reliant on the use of tear gas and pepper spray on blameless fans.
Lessons to be learnt
The review team found organisers were too reliant on operational plans used for the French Cup final – a fixture involving domestic teams rather than thousands flying in from abroad. It is understood the French Football Federation is alleged to have produced no venue risk assessment or “proper” event risk assessment.
The report goes on to state “… we call on UEFA and others at the top of the football regulation pyramid to come together and take positive and transparent action to ensure there are no more ‘near misses’,” Liverpool said.
“We implore UEFA to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the panel, no matter how difficult, to ensure supporter safety is the number one priority at the heart of every UEFA football fixture.”
UEFA has effectively been told it should have done more to challenge the failure of a lack of coordination and the inability to find solutions on the night.
Response from Liverpool fans
Liverpool FC, fans groups and others have responded to the report including Mayor of the Liverpool City region Steve Rotheram who said: “UEFA’s report vindicates what I and other fans have been saying all along: that is, it was the fans who averted a disaster and were clearly not to blame, whilst the organisers – UEFA and the French authorities – were really responsible.
“Lessons must be learned to ensure the safety of the venues chosen to host sporting spectacles.In addition, the organisation before, during and after the game – and the heavy-handed treatment of fans – was predicated on flawed intelligence and the inaccurate preconceptions and prejudices of the authorities.
“Perhaps the safety of fans will be a primary concern now, instead of financially driven decisions by football’s governing bodies.”
The use of technology
As with other similar incidents over the years the common failures include the lack of clear leadership, no joined up thinking, poor communication and limited scenario planning.
The use of venue and event management technology, such as VenuePro can help with the above, prevent such incidents from taking place in the first place and if they do then mitigate the potential negative outcome.
The right technology can provide powerful tools needed to help in the initial planning, briefing and compliance to assist the organisers and operational teams to effectively plan for probable scenarios and eventualities. It can assist key stakeholders to coordinate more effectively, ensuring seamless event day execution with direct and real time information.
VenuePro includes a complete Risk Assessment and Analysis solution, which can be automated or set manually and templates for PEAPs, staffing and check-lists can be assigned.
The Control Room Dashboard ensures all stakeholders can get a complete snapshot as to what is happening at the venue, during an event, in real time. It can also be an effective way to mitigate against the worst possible outcomes by ensuring efficient and effective communication, which can ensure robust command and control room coordination of team members on the ground, alongside the emergency services.
The Incident & Investigation Management Module is a powerful tool to allow venue operators and event organisers the ability to quickly and efficiently respond to fast moving incidents and ensure all data and intelligence is collected in real time and stored in one place. It means that post-incident briefings and reports are easily accessible by all stakeholders and authorities and the resulting intelligence and audits can quickly help to identify the root causes of the failure and what actions need to be implemented to prevent such incidents in the future.
In reality there is no one individual party that is at fault in these situations and incidents such as these occur because of a catalogue of failures across numerous agencies and the inability for those on the ground to react effectively and efficiently.
However, it is important the lessons are learnt, new ways of working are implemented and technology is used to its fullest to try and prevent potentially tragic incidents from happening in the first place. And if they do happen then disaster is averted and the reasons for the incident happening in the first place is clearly identifiable so that blame is not apportioned unfairly.