PARIS - Uefa itself bears “primary responsibility” for safety failures at the 2022 Champions League final in Paris between Liverpool and Real Madrid, a report commissioned by the European football body said on Monday.
The report also claimed the policing model was influenced by a view of Liverpool – based on the deadly 1989 Hillsborough disaster – on incorrect assumptions that the city’s supporters were a threat to public order.
It said that the panel “has concluded that Uefa, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster”.
“The safety, security and service model laid out in the Saint-Denis Convention was ignored in favour of a securitised approach,” the report said.
Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at the Stade de France on May 28 was overshadowed by events surrounding European football’s showpiece event.
Kick-off was delayed by 37 minutes as fans struggled to access the stadium after being funnelled into overcrowded bottlenecks on approach.
Police then fired tear gas towards thousands of supporters locked behind metal fences on the perimeter to the stadium.
Uefa then tried to pin the blame on Liverpool fans arriving late, despite thousands having been held for hours outside the stadium before kick-off.
The French authorities then claimed an “industrial scale fraud” of fake tickets was the problem.
A French Senate enquiry in July found that poorly executed security arrangements were the cause of the mayhem.
Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis has made an apology for the lapses and thanked the panel who created the report for their work.
“On behalf of Uefa, I would like to apologise most sincerely once again to all those who were affected by the events that unfolded on what should have been a celebration at the pinnacle of the club season,” he said.
“In particular, I would like to apologise to the supporters of Liverpool FC... for the messages released prior to and during the game which had the effect of unjustly blaming them for the situation leading to the delayed kick-off.”
The independent review was commissioned on May 30, 2022, and published on Monday at a cost of almost €500,000 (S$712,600) to date.
“Uefa is committed to learning from the events,” the apology added, promising to work more closely with stakeholders to assure they can enjoy the game in a safe, secure and welcoming environment.
Liverpool said they were disappointed that they had not received a copy of the report before it surfaced in several British media outlets hours before it was officially released.
“It’s hugely disappointing that a report of such significance, such importance to football supporters’ lives and future safety, should be leaked and published in this way,” the Reds said in a statement.
“It’s been over eight months of work by the independent panel and it is only right and proper to publish the contents of the report to our supporters appropriately.” AFP, REUTERS