One of the main claims pushed by French officials to explain the chaotic crowd scenes that created a dangerous crush of fans outside last weekend’s Champions League final near Paris was that tens of thousands of people arrived at the game with fake tickets.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin claimed that up to 70% of tickets presented at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis were fake. He told a press conference on Monday that the “root cause” of the chaos was roughly 30,000–40,000 English fans carrying counterfeit tickets – or no tickets – that blocked entrances.
But according to official figures reviewed by The New York Times, the exact number of counterfeit tickets intercepted by gate stewards was much lower: 2,589, to be exact.
This figure is almost three times the usual number of counterfeits in the Champions League final, a game widely considered to be European football’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, but significantly lower than the figure used by Darmanin, who had no Wednesday did not provide details on the source of its estimate.
Darmanin and French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who made similar claims on fake tickets, have come under growing criticism over the handling of the game. French President Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for a “full transparency” in an investigation into match scenes and their causes. During an appearance before a French senate committee later Wednesday, Darmanin admitted: “Obviously things could have been better organized.”
“It’s obvious,” he added, “that this celebration of sport has been ruined.”
In what became a testy appearance before the committee, Darmanin and Oudéa-Castéra came under sustained pressure over organizational failures. In response, they widely repeated language that enraged Liverpool, their fans and members of the UK government.
At one point, Oudéa-Castéra told lawmakers that Liverpool fans carried a “very specific risk” in the eyes of French authorities, without specifying what she meant.
Darmanin, meanwhile, insisted counterfeit ticket numbers were on an unprecedented scale, saying that at one point there were so many that stadium security guards thought their tools for validating them were faulty.
The hearing lasted over an hour, ending with little clarity and a doubling down by officials on their previous claims, again with no evidence to back up their conclusions.
It prompted a lawmaker to ask: “Since Saturday we have blamed Liverpool fans and the club, striking workers and locals for the chaos. What allows you to make these statements without a thorough investigation?
Not all participants had the same experience in the final. While most Real Madrid fans arrived with e-tickets, Liverpool requested paper tickets for their official 23,000 ticket allocation. These tickets came with two main security features: one which had to be confirmed with a chemical pen and a second which was a laser engraving of the Champions League trophy.
Ticket holders without both security features were to be denied access by stewards at a first checkpoint away from the stadium’s barcode readers. But that system crumbled under a deluge of fans: to relieve the growing crush of people, officials abandoned those early checks and allowed crowds closer to the stadium.
The debacle led to a chorus of criticism from security at the match, in which Real Madrid beat Liverpool, 1-0, to claim their record 14th European title. Liverpool Police who attended in supporting roles described the situation outside the gates as “shocking.” The club, its fans and a group of European supporters all called for inquiries even as the game was in progress. And in the days that followed, British government officials demanded answers from their French counterparts and European football’s governing body UEFA over the treatment of thousands of Liverpool supporters.
Fans faced multiple problems, including dangerous crushes, after being locked in cramped quarters, and the final was delayed for more than 30 minutes as French riot police used tear gas and pepper spray on the fans after appearing to lose control of the situation. At the same time, hundreds of young people from the neighborhood tried to force their way into the stadium, either through the turnstiles or by scaling the security barriers. Officials estimated that up to 4,000 people without tickets could have made it.
Part of the explanation for why Liverpool supporters found themselves trapped in such a small space has now turned to matchday transport issues, including a workers’ strike which affected the one of the main rail links to the stadium.
UEFA and local officials compared travel data from Saturday’s game with figures from the Coupe de France final held at the Stade de France on May 7. They found that one of the stations closest to the Stade de France had four times as many fans traveling through gates on Saturday as the station had used during the Coupe de France final. This, they believe, has contributed to the dangerous fan bottleneck.
It may be months before a full picture of what happened at the stadium emerges. On Tuesday, UEFA, reeling from the chaotic scenes of last year’s European Championship final in London as well as the recent Europa League final in Seville, Spain, appointed a former minister for Education of Portugal, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, to conduct an independent investigation into chess. around the Champions League final.
Claims by French government officials, however, continue to infuriate Liverpool and its ownership. Club president Tom Werner said so in a caustic letter to Oudéa-Castéra, the French sports minister.
He wrote, he said, “out of utter disbelief that a minister of the French government, occupying a position of enormous responsibility and influence, could make a series of unproven statements on a matter of such importance until a proper, formal and independent investigative process has taken place.” even took place.
He denounced the “vague data and unverified claims” presented to reporters on Monday before an investigation took place.
“The fact that your public stance runs counter to that goal is a concern in itself,” he added. “That you did it without any recourse to ourselves or our supporters is even more important. All voices must count in this process, and they must count equally and fairly.
As well as attacking Oudéa-Castéra for his claims, Werner also demanded a public apology. By Tuesday evening, Oudéa-Castéra’s tone – but not his assertions about counterfeit banknotes – had changed.
“The fake ticket issue doesn’t change that: Liverpool are one of the greatest clubs of all time,” she wrote on Twitter. “And on Saturday there were fans with valid tickets who either had a terrible night or couldn’t watch the game. We’re sorry about that.
Liverpool continue to be inundated with video evidence shot on mobile phones by their supporters. The images, many of which have also been uploaded to social media, are heartbreaking at times, showing children and older fans struggling with the effects of tear gas being fired – sometimes indifferently — by the riot police.
Real Madrid fans faced similar problems on their side of the stadium. Since the final, several fans have come forward to say they were attacked or robbed entering and leaving the stadium.
Amando Sánchez, 51, who traveled to Paris in a group of 14, mostly family members, said his 87-year-old father and an older brother missed the game due to chaos at the gates. hall. Another brother, Sánchez said, fended off an effort to steal his ticket as he was about to present it at a stadium turnstile.
“Really, no one was responsible,” Sánchez said in an interview on Wednesday.