On Monday evening, findings from an Independent Panel Inquiry into the events in Paris last May were published, with Liverpool fans credited for saving lives while UEFA and the French police were condemned for their failings.
First leaked in the lead-up to the Merseyside derby and later published by UEFA, the independent review into safety issues from the 2022 Champions League final found the governing body to blame.
The report states that UEFA bears “primary responsibility” for the failures at the Stade de France which almost “led to disaster,” with it “it remarkable that no one lost their life.”
The early leak of the report looked to be an attempt to bury the findings but there can be no escaping the damning verdict for UEFA and other key stakeholders.
The independent review is a 220-page document, and here are eight of the key findings.
Liverpool fans saved lives
Liverpool supporters were fully vindicated and, in fact, saved lives through their actions:
“The collective actions of LFC supporters was probably instrumental in protecting vulnerable people and averting what might well have been more serious injuries and deaths.”
“The capacity of the Liverpool supporters to self-organise within this context [on concourses] was a primary factor in preventing harm and ensuring our inquiry is investigating a ‘near miss’ rather than a stadium tragedy involving fatalities.”
The foreword from Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, chair of the panel, also said:
“I would like to unequivocally stress that supporters attending this match were the main victims of the disgraceful events of that day, not being their promoters or instigators.”
UEFA bears “primary responsibility”
The final report has held UEFA responsible for organisational failings, lack of overall control, poor planning and safety and an absence of security management:
“The Panel has concluded that UEFA, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster.”
“UEFA was central to the organisation of the event, and it should have monitored, supervised and assisted with security and safety measures, to ensure they were fit for purpose, and to identify and remedy problems before they arose in real time.”
“UEFA has not recognised its own role or that of other stakeholders in the problems on the night, nor has it corrected its assertions about the supporters that have been removed from its website after request by FSE and Spirt of Shankly.”
“The UEFA ‘model’ for organising the UCLF22 was defective in that there was an absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security.”
Late fan message “objectively untrue”
As for the message displayed on the big screens inside the stadium for why kick-off was delayed, the panel found:
“UEFA announced on big screens within the stadium and thereby via broadcasters to the world, that the delay in kick-off was due to ‘late’ arriving supporters. This claim was objectively untrue.”
“It was manifestly inaccurate that ‘lateness’ had anything to do with the problems on 28th May.”
“The Panel has no hesitation in finding that the message should not have been displayed. It is never appropriate to post messages which are untrue.”
With parts of statements redacted and UEFA having insisted on anonymity for staff, there is no accountability for the responsible party.
“Reprehensible” deflection to ticketless supporters
Authorities attempted to stick to their story of ticketless fans for an uncomfortable amount of time, a decision “to deflect responsibility” that was “reprehensible:”
“The Panel concludes that assertions regarding huge numbers of ticketless supporters, and those with fake tickets, have been wrongly inflated and have been stated as fact, to deflect responsibility for the planning and operational failures of stakeholders.
“This is reprehensible and has involved UEFA, UEFA Events SA, FFF, the Prefecture de Police, Government Officials and French Ministers.”
“Based upon the wealth of evidence we have obtained from eyewitnesses and footage, the Panel has concluded that there is no evidence of an abnormally large number of ‘ticketless supporters’ or supporters with invalid tickets, in the vicinity.”
“No justification” for police weaponry
The heavy-handed approach from French police, which saw them deploy tear gas was deemed “completely inappropriate” and left the panel stating “it is remarkable that no one lost their life:”
“The Panel concludes that the deployment of tear gas in this confined location was completely inappropriate as it was both life-threatening and disproportionate, and it should have been obvious to any competent police commander that its use in such circumstances would be dangerous to supporters legitimately and peacefully trying to watch a football match.”
“The dangerous conditions on the concourse outside the turnstiles were compounded by the police deploying tear gas at disorderly groups of locals, as well as using pepper spray on supporters trying to gain entrance with valid tickets. It is remarkable that no one lost their life.”
“Regardless of the underlying rationale for these interventions, the Panel judges that there was no justification for the use of this weaponry and its deployment was also entirely disproportionate and inconsistent with the model of policing agreed within the Saint-Denis Convention.”
UEFA and French FA took measures to redact evidence
UEFA were asked to provide statements and witness interviews to ensure “as much transparency as is possible,” but objections were raised “late in the process” and redactions made, the French Football Federation had “similar objections:”
“Late in the process, two key stakeholders raised objections to publication of some evidence. Initially UEFA agreed, in writing, to the process set out by the independent Panel, including the publication of all evidence as above.
“In December 2022, UEFA indicated that they were unhappy with publication of any of their witness interview transcripts, but reached a compromise with the Panel that the transcripts would be published subject to anonymisation of all their staff including senior management (despite the fact that they would be named in the report itself).
“Subsequently, UEFA has used this anonymisation to justify redaction of questions and answers regarding the evidence given to the French Senate by a senior executive. The Panel is very disappointed that UEFA has taken this approach, in order to redact obviously important evidence.
“At about the same time in December 2022, FFF made similar objections. As a result, the transcripts relating to FFF are anonymised, and significant redactions have been required.”
“Incorrect assumptions” that LFC fans posed a threat
A key organisational failing was that a safety, security and service model was ignored in favour of wrong and reckless assumptions that Liverpool fans posed a threat to public order:
“The safety, security and service model laid out in the Saint-Denis Convention, was ignored in favour of a securitized approach which was inappropriately based on incorrect assumptions that Liverpool FC supporters posed significant threats to public order.
“That inexplicable misconception resulted in a policing approach that lacked capacity for engagement, and which actively failed to integrate into a coherent multi-agency framework.”
Deleted CCTV footage “significant concern”
Recordings from the night from 260 cameras were deleted a week after the final and the panel found it “remarkable” that no stakeholders “ensured “that the footage was retained:”
“Whereas the Panel has been pleased with the high level of cooperation with the Review by most stakeholders, there is one aspect of the evidence which is of significant concern: the unavailability of CCTV footage.”
“As the Panel has noted with concern, the recordings from all 260 Stade de France cameras were auto deleted about a week after the events. The Stade de France management did not take any measures to ensure retention, and no one else – including the French authorities, UEFA or FFF – asked them to retain the footage.”
“The Panel finds that it was a remarkable and serious failure that none of those stakeholders ensured that the footage was retained. CSDF was the only stakeholder to accept this criticism in interview.”