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Champions League final: Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says report must be 'turning point'
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says the outcome of an independent report into last season’s Champions League final in Paris must be a “turning point” for how fans are treated.
Fans were penned in and teargassed outside Stade de France at the game against Real Madrid on 28 May 2022.
The report ruled Uefa bore “primary responsibility” for the chaotic scenes, adding it was “remarkable” no-one died.
“The sooner action is taken, the better,” said Henderson.
The England midfielder tweeted: “The Paris report needs to be a turning point for the treatment of football fans. No one should have their safety jeopardised by inadequate organisation.”
Liverpool want Uefa to “fully and transparently” fulfil recommendations made in the report and action must be taken “to ensure there are no more near misses.”
The club added the “fundamental safety failings” had “exacerbated the suffering” of the families, friends and survivors of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
“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,” Liverpool said.
The report – commissioned by Uefa three days after the final which Liverpool lost 1-0 – made 21 recommendations in an attempt to ensure “everything possible is done” to prevent a similar incident happening at a major sporting event.
The recommendations include using only digital tickets and Uefa ensuring its own safety and security unit has “primary responsibility” for Champions League final operations.
It also warned French authorities this should be a “wake-up call” before it hosts the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Liverpool MP Ian Byrne has written to French president Emmanuel Macron demanding “nothing short of a full public apology”.
‘Shocking false narratives’ after ‘disaster’ final
Uefa and French authorities initially blamed ticketless Liverpool fans for the events, but the report – released on Monday – said there was “no evidence” to support the “reprehensible” claims.
It added the collective action of Liverpool supporters was “probably instrumental” in preventing “more serious injuries and deaths” outside the stadium.
“Shocking false narratives were peddled in the immediate aftermath of that night in Paris; narratives that have since been totally disproven,” said Liverpool.
“The independent French Senate report published in July 2022 found Liverpool supporters were unfairly and wrongly blamed for the chaotic scenes to divert attention from the real organisational failures.
“The Independent Senate report also published 15 recommendations for improvements. No action has been taken on these recommendations to date.”
For many Liverpool fans, the incident and subsequent attempted attribution of blame on supporters evoked painful memories of the Hillsborough disaster.
Ninety-seven Liverpool supporters died as a result of the April 1989 disaster at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, where fans were crushed because of overcrowding in the Leppings Lane end at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
“It is shocking that more than 30 years after the Hillsborough disaster any club and our group of fans would be subject to such fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many,” the club added.
“But even more concerning is the realisation that for families, friends and survivors of Hillsborough, Paris has only exacerbated their suffering.
“Our thoughts go out to all our fans who have suffered as a result of Paris and we would remind them of the mental health support we put in place in the days following the disaster that was the Uefa Champions League final in Paris.”
What has been the reaction?
The report was released about an hour before Liverpool’s home win against Merseyside rivals Everton on Monday.
The findings were thought to be set for publication on Tuesday, but details of the investigation’s conclusions were reported by a number of media organisations earlier on Monday.
Liverpool said they had not received a copy of the report before seeing the stories in the media.
On Tuesday, Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly said, like Liverpool, it welcomed the report’s findings into the “horrendous situations” that unfolded in Paris.
“What should have been the highlight of the season for travelling supporters of Liverpool and Real Madrid – in Uefa’s words a ‘festival of football’ – turned out to be a maelstrom of chaos and alarm that led to some fans fearing for their life,” the group said.
“The blame game began even before a ball was kicked, and in the immediate aftermath those supposedly in charge – Uefa and the authorities – had no hesitation in pointing the finger at supporters.”
It added it expected an apology from European football’s governing body “for the lies and smears Uefa so quickly aimed at supporters, without whom their competition and showcase final would be nothing”.
In his letter to President Macron, Byrne – Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby – said: “I am sure you can appreciate that nothing short of a full public apology and retraction by French police authorities, French football authorities, your government and Uefa will suffice, due to the immense pain caused by this falsified narrative of blame.
“There is an urgent need for a full and unequivocal apology by all parties for this deeply hurtful and – for many Liverpool fans – triggering ploy to shift the blame.”
Speaking to LBC, Paris deputy mayor Pierre Rabadan said the organisation of the final was “done too quickly”.
It was moved to the French capital in February 2022 after Russia was stripped of the match following the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The organisation was going probably too quickly, we can say today. Normally the organisation takes around ten months to organise a Champions League final,” said Rabadan.
“Here everything was organised in the last two months before the events. We can say that they had mistakes.”
The Football Supporters’ Association head of policing and casework Amanda Jacks said of the report: “This is a total exoneration of Liverpool fans who were smeared by those responsible for this fiasco in an attempt to cover up their own failings.
“The panel has made clear to Uefa that this report has to be taken seriously and cannot be allowed to sit in a drawer gathering dust.”
More than 2,000 Liverpool supporters who claim they were injured or left with psychological trauma after the final are part of a class-action lawsuit against Uefa seeking damages.
Tony Winterburn, of law firm Pogust Goodhead who are co-running the legal case, said: “An apology is a start, but it simply does not go far enough.
“We want our clients, alongside all other fans who have been proven to be blameless, to be compensated for the psychological and physical trauma they experienced on that day and for the subsequent trauma they experienced after the event when authorities continued to place blame at their door despite knowing this was untrue.”
A Football Association spokesperson said: “We welcome the findings of the very detailed and thorough report, and are pleased that Liverpool fans have been praised for their exemplary behaviour on the night – behaviour which saved lives.
“The reports contains important recommendations which are relevant to everyone involved in the delivery of major football events, and positive action should be taken to ensure that this never happens again.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “We urged a full review into the disturbing events at last year’s Champions League final, so I welcome this report – particularly the recognition that Liverpool fans behaved faultlessly throughout.
“I hope Uefa will act on its recommendations so that this doesn’t happen at a match again.”
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “Lessons must be learned. This was a ‘near miss’ of a much more fatal situation. It only didn’t become so because of the actions of fans.”