Ttwo days after the horrors of pariswhere UEFA demonstrated a shocking disregard for the lessons learned from Hillsborough and other footballing catastrophes, Liverpool were already facing another: beware of “independent investigation”.
Portuguese MP Tiago Brandão Rodrigues may well have the harshest of independent minds, but UEFA has appointed him to run the Review of the Champions League fiasco and UEFA itself is very much a focus for the necessary investigation.
The build-up of disaster by police and organizers on France’s national stadium, tear-gassed, dystopian approach has been quickly identified mostly by supporters with video evidence, the umbrella group. Europe soccer fans and some excellent reporting from the sportswriters at the match. As is so often the case, the causes of the chaos can be frighteningly simple: the police had no viable system for checking for valid tickets from the turnstiles, and instead held thousands of people in a ridiculous bottleneck for an eternity. before giving up completely. Then there were breakdowns and closures at the turnstiles which led to more huge static queues, clearly exacerbated by some groups of local lads trying to get in.
Over-equipped police were filmed launching tear gas at innocent people, young and old, sometimes with an air of bored disdain, for which not even French ministers deny it. The only real point of contention that remains, albeit highly toxic, is how much of the turnstile clogging was caused by fake tickets. The ministers’ assertions that there was 70%, or 30-40,000, Liverpool fans with fake tickets or no tickets, it seems ridiculous: where, physically, were all these tens of thousands of people? – but there will have been some, a routine issue that needs to be dealt with in any big game. But many Liverpool supporters have said that their tickets, whether bought very expensive or even, as andy robertson saidofficially issued to VIPs, did not scan at turnstiles.
But any proper investigation will also have to ask how and why, in the midst of all that danger, UEFA issued two adverts, one on the big screen for all the world to see, instantly blaming Liverpool supporters. That was an unmistakable echo of the police cover-up at the scene in Hillsborough and it was truly shocking to see European football’s governing body come close to delivering an instant verdict.
The credibility of the first announcement, the late arrival of the fans, did not last a minute, and thousands of people immediately protested because they had been outside for hours. However, UEFA issued a second one after the game ended, charging that “thousands” of Liverpool fans he had fake tickets, which felt instinctively overblown and clearly yet to be established.
Those same fans who had been immediately charged faced what was for many the worst part of a harrowing event: a nightmarish trek to train stations, where they were violently attacked and robbed.
Some in Aleksander Ceferin’s astute Uefa may be annoyed by the comparison to the The Lies Blaming South Yorkshire Police Fans in 1989, but that would only show more ignorance. The stories in the UEFA statements were the same as those from Hillsborough: Liverpool fans arriving late and without a ticket. The grieving families of 97 people illegally murdered in that FA Cup semi-final have been forced to fight for decades to refute the easy but poisonous guilt of the victims. It took them 27 years before the The jury of the 2016 investigations completely rejected the lies of the policeand found that the cause of the disaster was grossly negligent police mismanagement of the football match.
UEFA’s reckless announcements sparked a toxic torrent on social media that again showed how persistent the original police lies are to people whose support for football is expressed in prejudiced hatred of rivals. It seemed that on Saturday night there was no line of respect left that some would not cross, as even grieving family members were insulted and insulted.
That is the legacy of trauma carried by thousands of Liverpool supporters at every football match they attend. Indeed, with youngsters priced out of UEFA 2022 tickets, many in Paris were hillsborough survivors, now in his 50s and 60s. There is simply no excuse for UEFA to be so ignorant of this.
As French ministers delved into their unlikely case, it also became clear that Brexit is not helping British football fans at all, yet another British outcome fueled by toxic lies on social media. Apparently, those who pushed for Britain to leave the EU barely considered that Britons will forever travel, vacation and watch football in Europe. Some misfortunes will always happen and under those circumstances the British now lack equal rights and a government with a seat around the table.
The rest of Europe sees the British in separate queues and the Boris Johnson government engaging in aggravating fights with France over migrant crossings or mussel fishing. Just as criticizing the French seems to play well with a particular mindset in Britain, the French government apparently finds it more palatable to blame Liverpool fans than to stand up to the thuggery of its own police force.
A fundamental lesson from Hillsborough, and from any other public calamity, is to wait until the facts can be established, not to pass judgment by blaming the victims. That Uefa was so ignorant of that principle and Liverpool’s sensitivities became part of the horror of the night.
A genuinely independent investigation is needed to take evidence: into the catastrophic organization of the UEFA grand final and the claims authorities have made to pass off their responsibility, including the UEFA announcements. That is why some caution may be advisable, before trusting an investigation that UEFA itself has launched.