The French government official investigating the chaos at the Champions League final in Paris in which police used teargas and pepper spray against Liverpool fans admitted there were “many regrets” over what happened but said preparations had been robust.
Michel Cadot, the sports ministry’s delegate on major events, said those involved in planning for the match – including the French Football Federation and the police – had acted in a “strong and satisfactory” manner, but admitted the occasion was “an important failure that damages us”.
“The controlling of the crowd could have been better,” he told the Sénat, which has quizzed the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, and sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castera.
During two hours with Cadot, the Sénat heard that in the run-up to the match there had been no particular concerns about hooliganism or any threat of violence. In short, it was not considered a particularly risky event, he said.
François Noel Buffet, president of the law commission, asked about the police use of teargas, which Buffet said was “shocking” and from television images appeared had been used against fans who “posed no particular threat”.
Cadot responded by saying the police had no choice given the “chain of events” and the arrival of a crowd of fans pushing against the grills at the entrance to the stadium. “It was the only response really adapted to avoid a more serious situation,” he told the committee.
“There are no miracle solutions; each country has its own approach to public order. In certain places where there is an accumulation of a crowd we could perhaps consider using mounted police to supervise [the situation],” he said.
Cadot said he had not seen the 25 May report by the National Division for the Fight Against Hooliganism (DNLH), three days before the match, warning that about 50,000 Liverpool supporters could turn up with fake tickets and try to enter the Stade de France. Making reference to previous finals involving Liverpool, the DNLH reported that “several hundred English supporters will try to get into the stadium by forcing the turnstiles and different access doors”. It called for “great vigilance”.
“I didn’t see [the report] at my level but it was shared with the prefect of police because it arrived quite late in the day, but the elements it provided confirmed what we knew for several weeks, that there would be a number of visitors without tickets accompanying fans,” Cadot said.
He said the number of forged tickets picked up at the three gates used by Liverpool fans was 10-12% of the 20,000 tickets allocated to Liverpool. This was four times the number picked up at the Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool in 2018, he added.
“Some of these, as you will have seen, were photocopies of certain tickets sold at a very low price so the buyer must have known it was not an authentic ticket,” Cadot said.
Buffet said he was also astonished not one image from the 200 CCTV cameras around the Stade de France had been kept. “Nobody at any point thought it useful to keep those images?” he asked.
“There’s a legal possibility to keep them for 30 days, but we’re talking about stocking a considerable amount of information and it’s automatically deleted so more can be stocked,” Cadot replied. “Seen from the outside, I can appreciate citizens might have difficulty understanding this but it is an automatic process.”
Several senators questions why police had not acted to prevent attacks on British fans by local “delinquents” – including pickpockets and muggers – when these had started well before the match at about 2pm.
Cadot, a former police prefect, was involved in preparation and said: “I have my part in the responsibility for this failure”.
Buffet, the senator overseeing the hearing, said it would be hearing from Liverpool supporters. “Requests have been made,” he said. “We haven’t finished our work.”