The French interior minister has said “fraud at an industrial level” regarding tickets was to blame for the chaos seen at the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.
Gerald Darmanin also expressed “regret” for the lack of organisation as the game between Liverpool and Real Madrid was delayed by 36 minutes.
Darmanin alleged that thousands of fake tickets had caused a situation whereby fans were unable to enter the Stade de France, causing a delay to kick-off.
Police fired tear gas at Liverpool supporters waiting to enter the stadium, with some of these altercations filmed and shared on social media, and the UK’s culture secretary Nadine Dorries has urged UEFA to launch an inquiry into the incident.
UEFA insisted that fans of the Premier League club attempting to gain entry with fake tickets was the issue, after initially claiming Liverpool supporters arriving late to the stadium had been the cause of the delay, though Merseyside Police have rejected those accusations.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Darmanin accepted that errors took place in terms of organisation, but blamed fake tickets for causing the issues, saying: “I would like to express our regrets with regard to the organisation of this final, because some people were not able to see the whole of the match.
“And, of course, I deplore also the errors that took place before this football match.
“It was noted there was massive fraud on an industrial scale and organisation for fake tickets because the pre-filtering by the Stade de France and the French Football Federation saw that 70 per cent of tickets were fake tickets coming into the stadium.”
Darmanin also admitted police had been caught off guard by “local delinquents” at the stadium, with reports of fans of both teams being attacked by local gangs before and after the match.
“In 2019, the final between Liverpool and Tottenham caused the same issues in Madrid,” he added, as quoted by BFMTV. “So did a final at Wembley a few years ago. There was also the Liverpool manager [Jurgen Klopp] who called on supporters to come to France even without tickets.
“We found ourselves with tens of thousands of British supporters of which a section respected the rules perfectly. And a minor, but extremely lively, section which pushed the authorities.
“The decisions [to remove the initial filtering of tickets] that were taken ensured that there were no deaths. The initial filtering was removed to avoid people being crushed on police cordons or on gates.”
Questions have been raised about France’s ability to organise the final appropriately, with the country due to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and Paris the 2024 Olympic Games, but Darmanin believes the issue is only with football fans of “certain English clubs”.
“Comparisons with the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup seem rather disproportionate to me, knowing that it’s patently only in football with certain English clubs that these events happen,” he added.
His comments came after France’s sports minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera, had told reporters: “What happened, first of all, was this mass gathering of the British supporters of Liverpool without tickets, or with fake tickets.”
Liverpool left-back Andrew Robertson said after the 1-0 defeat to Madrid that one of his friends had been told he had a fake ticket, despite it coming from the club’s own allocation.
“It was a shambles,” he said. “UEFA have messed up. You come in after the game, go on your phone you have seen everyone struggle to get in, the French police being pretty heavy-handed, people who have got legitimate tickets being told they are fake. Pretty much all our families were affected.
“I think they were making it up at times and panicked. For me, it shouldn’t really happen, UEFA should have been better organised.”
The Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, Ian Byrne, was present at the game and said to Sky Sports News he could see a similar “narrative of lies” developing to those following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 97 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed.
Following the minister’s comments, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher tweeted: “Liars @AOC1978 (Oudea-Castera) @UEFA police & authorities can’t get away with cover-ups as easily as they used to thankfully.”