UK calls for investigation into ‘distressing scenes’ of Champions League final

The UK has called on European football’s governing body to open a formal investigation following the Champions League final after reports emerged of violent clashes and the use of tear gas by French police against British supporters in Paris.

Saturday’s match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, held at the Stade de France, was delayed by 35 minutes as French authorities struggled to manage crowds outside the stadium.

Eyewitnesses described long lines of people waiting to enter the stadium and the use of tear gas and pepper spray by police. The French government and UEFA, European football’s governing body, have accused Liverpool fans of misbehaving.

Nadine Dorries, Culture Secretary, called the ‘images and stories from Liverpool fans’ ‘disturbing’, adding that it was in the ‘interests of everyone involved to understand what happened and to lessons” from Saturday’s events.

“I urge UEFA to open a formal investigation into what happened and why, in coordination with stadium staff, the French police, the French Football Federation, Merseyside Police and Merseyside Football Club. Liverpool,” she said. Real Madrid won the match 1-0.

Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis, Secretary of Northern Ireland, wonders about the behavior of the French authorities. “It’s worrying that people haven’t entered the stadium or been treated the way some of them appear to have been treated, with a very aggressive approach,” he told Sky News.

UEFA said it would “review” the situation “as a matter of urgency” with the French authorities. “During the match, the turnstiles on the Liverpool side were blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets, which did not work in the turnstiles,” he said in a statement.

“This created a backlog of fans trying to get in. As a result, kick-off was delayed for 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access. While the number of people outside the stadium continued to pile up after kick-off, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, blamed “thousands” of British fans who tried to break into the stadium without tickets or with forged tickets. He thanked the French police for their work; the Interior Ministry said 105 people were arrested overnight.

However, chris greenthe Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police – whose force was deployed in Paris as an ‘observation and adviser’ – said on Twitter that the ‘vast majority of fans were behaving in an exemplary manner’ and that people had witnessed “distressing scenes”.

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan reiterated the club’s demand for an official inquiry on Sunday.

He told the club’s TV channel: “The entry into the stadium and the breakdown of perimeter security was absolutely unacceptable and frankly the treatment of our supporters as well. We are determined to ensure that there have an independent investigation.

“It is absolutely imperative that we understand what happened last night and how we got into this situation where people’s safety was put at risk. It is important that we learn all the lessons and ensure that may this never happen again.

Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said that she would write to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to “demand answers” from UEFA and an investigation by French President Emmanuel Macron.

His call was echoed by Ian Byrne, a Liverpool MP who attended the game and said that where he entered only two of the 13 turnstiles were open. “I have never seen a more hostile environment,” he said. “From the start, the police, the security, everything was absolutely horrible.”

The French government and police have also been criticized at both ends of the national political spectrum.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called it a “humiliation” for France as the country prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. She accused the Interior Ministry of lying on those responsible for the unrest and blamed “traditional suburban thugs” rather than British fans.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of a left-wing alliance in the upcoming French legislative elections, said the events showed a “total failure” by the French police, whom he blamed for making the situation worse.

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