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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Richard Garnett

French media maps out route cause of Liverpool Champions League final chaos with timeline video

The series of events that resulted in chaos for Liverpool fans before the Champions League final has been documented in a timeline video by French media.

An investigation by Le Monde, developed using hundreds of amateur videos and eye-witness accounts, exposes a clear failing in organisation outside the Stade de France and challenges the narrative of the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, who claimed as many as 40,000 supporters attempted to gain entry to the high-profile event by using fake tickets.

What should have been a night to remember for match-going supporters of Liverpool and Real Madrid descended into a nightmare as supporters struggled to gain entry to the stadium, with kick-off eventually delayed by more than half an hour. Many of those who did manage to get in where greeted with pepper spray from French police and found themselves trapped in a hostile environment with other individuals who's primary interest was not supporting either club but stealing belongings from fans.

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Introducing their video report, Le Monde said: "Our investigation reveals that the presence of supporters without tickets or with fake tickets was real on May 28, and even expected by the French authorities. But it was not the cause for the incidents that occurred around the stadium before the match."

After setting the scene, the video begins with Gérald Darmanin explaining in a television interview that between 30,000 and 40,000 more people were in attendance than the Stade de France can accommodate (capacity 80,000). But Le Monde says: "According to the hundreds of photos and videos collected and assembled by 'Le Monde' there is no evidence of such an extreme excess of fans. Our investigation reveals, however, that organisational arrangements were not correctly followed. And that crowd control in the vicinity of the stadium proved to be inadequate."

Le Monde's report confirms that the French Police Prefecture expected 40,000-50,000 fans without tickets to arrive in Paris. Two fan zones were set up for supporters of both clubs. Real Madrid's fan zone, which had a capacity of 6,000, was situated just a 15 minute walk from the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Liverpool's much larger fan zone near the Place de Nation, was capable of holding 44,000 people and located much further away from the stadium, nearer the centre of Paris.

From here, Liverpool supporters had a choice of three public transport routes to the Stade de France - Metro line 13, RED D and RER B. The French Government claim that 110,000 people showed up at the stadium before the Champions League final, 73,000 of which used public transport to arrive. But the government's figures do not match those of the public transport operators SNCF and RATP. SNCF told Le Monde that 43,200 travellers alighted at the RER D and B stations leading to the stadium and RATP said no similar headcount was made at the Metro stations.

However, a major cause of the problems that led to a mass congestion of fans appears to originate from poor directions to the ground. A partial strike by RER B staff was announced on the day of the game. This is usually the most popular route to the stadium. As a result, fans are encouraged to travel via RER D. SNCF says that 6,200 people still used the RER B route, and 37,000 travelled on RER D - four times more than usual for a line that is further away from the Stade de France.

Le Monde reports that the dramatic increase in supporters exiting the RER D route is badly managed by organisers and the police. A map issued by UEFA advises supporters using RER D to follow the route to the ground usually taken by people who have arrived via the RER B route. This routes footfall through the wide avenue du Stade de France, directly to the ground. Here ticket verification lines are in place.

However, this is not the route that most fans take. After exiting the station and initially following the advised route, a sign after only 219 yards tells supporters to turn left down a street, well short of the adapted avenue du Stade de France, taking supporters off course. The result is masses of fans arriving at the stadium via a narrow underground tunnel under the A1 freeway and must now reach the turnstiles via a ramped walkway at the side of the stadium.

On this route, only five ticket checking lines have been prepared and it is here where problems start to develop. Unable to carry out ticket checks quick enough, large queues start to form from 6pm. Video footage shows how within an hour the crowd has swelled and supporters are effectively blocked in under the flyover as staff struggle to process ticket verifications efficiently. To make matters worse, buses of the gendarmerie are placed across the route, making a passage to the ticket check point even more treacherous.

After a sustained period of waiting, tension starts to rise in the frustrated crowd, with police and gendarmes arriving to provide reinforcements, at one point blocking access routes. By 7.15pm the situation has become dangerous and the pre-ticket check points are lifted completely. As supporters rush forward towards the ground, the gates of X and Y soon have huge swells of supporters outside them. With crowds pressing against the gates, the doors are closed.

It is the moment for ticketless opportunists to attempt to climb up the fences and gained entry into the stadium, causing havoc for stadium security and the police. Video footage from Le Monde shows this taking place and there is no evidence that it is Liverpool supporters who are gaining access unlawfully. The end result is police using tear gas on ticketed supporters in an effort to calm the crowd.

By the time the match eventually kicks off at 9.36pm local time, there are still thousands of supporters with legitimate tickets outside the stadium. But with the game underway, Le Monde's investigation shows that there is no sign of the 30,000-40,000 ticketless supporters the government has claimed to have headed for the Stade de France, but Liverpool's 44,000-capacity fan zone in Place de la Nation is full. This is confirmed by the Profecture de Police.

As supporters leave the stadium at approximately 11.30pm local time, internet user accounts say that young people 'unconnected to the match' attack and try to rob supporters. There is little video evidence to verify these claims but testimonials collected by Le Monde confirm the presence of threatening gangs with police allegedly doing little to halt the hostilities. 83 people are arrested on the night of the match.

Watch Le Monde's full investigation video HERE.

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