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Why the Champions League Final Was Delayed


PARIS — A logjam of fans that led to a 35-minute delay of the beginning of Saturday’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool was attributable to people attempting to make use of “fake tickets” to enter the match, the tournament’s organizer said.

The issues with crowd control and access — which appeared to result from organizational failures fairly than crowd misbehavior — saw 1000’s of fans, lots of them Liverpool supporters with valid tickets, trapped in lines for hours, with few gates available for entry and a shortage of staff members on the bottom.

The confusion left fans locked out of their team’s biggest game of the season, and created a potentially dangerous situation through which French law enforcement officials, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used canisters of what UEFA, which runs the Champions League, said was tear gas to maintain the surging crowds at bay.

“Within the lead-up to the sport, the turnstiles on the Liverpool end became blocked by 1000’s of fans who had purchased fake tickets which didn’t work within the turnstiles,” UEFA said in its statement. “This created a buildup of fans attempting to get in. Because of this, the kickoff was delayed by 35 minutes to permit as many fans as possible with real tickets to achieve access.”

The statement went on, “As numbers outside the stadium continued to accumulate after kickoff, the police dispersed them with tear gas and compelled them away from the stadium.”

Within the chaos, fans pleaded with stadium stewards to be allowed in, pressing their tickets through the iron gates, and lots of were left coughing and gasping for breath on the sidewalks outside the Stade de France, a contemporary arena built for the 1998 World Cup.

Other fans searched for alternate ways in, climbing fences and locked gates. One group of V.I.P.s, delayed due to an issue scanning the Q.R. codes attached to their tickets, scaled a fence in an effort to get to their seats. Once over it, one among the officials said, they watched because the police fought with spectators still outside.

Contained in the stadium, where the teams had accomplished their warm-ups, two 15-minute delays were announced. But even before the crowds outside had dispersed, UEFA went ahead, incongruously, with an elaborate pregame ceremony starring the singer Camila Cabello. Once she finished, the teams took the sphere and traded handshakes, and the ultimate began.

Cops stationed on the entrances to the stadium pinned much of the blame for the chaos on the local population of the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, where the stadium is positioned, saying it was not fans wearing the colours of the competing teams but those wearing what they described as “civilian clothing” who had tried to enter the stadium without tickets.

But France’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, repeated UEFA’s version of events in a Twitter post. “Hundreds of British ‘supporters’ without tickets or with counterfeit tickets forced entry and sometimes assaulted the stewards,” he wrote. “Thanks to the very many police forces mobilized this evening on this difficult context.”

Fans blamed a scarcity of organization, saying several entrance gates were closed, forcing those attending the sport to funnel into long lines that developed into a crush of bodies as kickoff time neared.

UEFA officials initially appeared to lay the blame for the issues on “late-arriving fans,” though huge crowds had been stuck on the gates for hours before the scheduled kickoff.

Tommy Smith, a Liverpool fan who had traveled to Paris from Ireland with a bunch of family and friends, said his group had arrived two hours before the scheduled kickoff and located that there have been few entrances where fans could present their tickets. “They closed every turnstile Liverpool-related,” Smith said. “Fans waited two hours, orderly, nothing out of order, and we were tear-gassed.” He said there was little information or direction from stadium staff.

Liverpool released an announcement in the course of the game through which it said the club was “hugely dissatisfied on the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the safety perimeter that Liverpool fans faced.” The team said it had requested a proper investigation into the events.

Ronan Evan, the chief director of Football Supporters Europe, an umbrella group for fans, told The Recent York Times that the fans were blameless.

“Fans on the Champions League final bear no responsibility for tonight’s fiasco,” he said. “They’re victims here.”

By halftime, a UEFA security official said, the Stade de France had been locked down, with all entrances and exits closed, while the police were still deploying tear gas outside the stadium concourses.

“For now it’s safer for you inside than outside,” the UEFA official told an Australian executive seeking to leave the stadium at halftime. The safety official said that “it was a police decision” to shut entry and exit points.

In its statement after the sport, UEFA said it could investigate the causes of the group problems, which got here almost a yr after surging crowds of ticketless fans attending the European Championship at Wembley Stadium, in London, overwhelmed stewards to achieve access to the ultimate of that tournament. The tournament was also a UEFA event.

“UEFA is sympathetic to those affected by these events,” the organization said, “and can further review these matters urgently along with the French police and authorities, and with the French Football Federation.”

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