Liverpool chairman Tom Werner wants an apology for how the club’s fans were treated after the French government said “massive” ticket fraud was to blame for the chaos at Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris.
Werner is a part of the US-based Fenway Sports Group, which owns Liverpool. In a letter to French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera that was leaked on Monday, he said that her comments about the chaos left him “completely dumbfounded.”
Oudea-Castera first blamed Liverpool for contributing to the chaos. He told a French radio station that the club’s fans who went to Paris were not well organized.
After a crisis meeting at the sports ministry on Monday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin insisted that ticket scams and the behavior of Liverpool fans were to blame.
Werner wrote in a letter that was leaked to the local Liverpool Echo newspaper, “I am utterly shocked that a minister of the French government could make a series of unproven statements on a matter of such importance before a proper, formal, independent investigation has even taken place.”
The Boston-based chairman added, “Your comments were irresponsible, unprofessional, and completely disrespectful to the thousands of fans who were hurt physically and emotionally.”
“On behalf of all the fans who went through this nightmare, I demand an apology from you and a promise that the French authorities and UEFA will let an independent and open investigation go forward.”
The group in charge of European football said that a Portuguese politician named Tiago Brandao Rodrigues will lead an independent investigation.
Liverpool is still haunted by the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 97 people died in a stadium crash. The chaos brought back painful memories of that day.
Then, like at the weekend, police at first blamed fans who didn’t have tickets, but after a long legal battle, they were cleared.
Werner wrote in his letter that the events in Paris were “extremely dangerous for everyone there,” and he urged people not to “play the blame game at a press conference.”
“I’ve gotten a lot of emails from Liverpool fans who were scared to death and were harassed by police and hit with pepper spray and tear gas,” he said.
Numbers were disputed.
Darmanin said that between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans were outside the Stade de France with fake tickets or no tickets at all.
Authorities say that this made a big difference in how many people were waiting outside the gates of France’s national stadium, which led to long lines and a huge bottleneck.
But the numbers that were given have been questioned, even in France, where the leader of a large fan group who was at the stadium on Saturday called them a “lie.”
He told AFP, “There were some supporters with fake tickets, but not thousands.”
“That seems like a very, very big number to me,” said Regis Juanico, a French politician who is an expert on sports issues. “I don’t know much about it yet, but I’ll find out more on Wednesday when the two ministers talk to the Senate.”
Because of how the match was policed, thousands of Liverpool fans with tickets had a hard time getting in. This has led to a lot of criticism of the French government from the British press and politicians.
The scenes hurt the reputation of the French capital and made people wonder if it could host big sports events like the Olympics in 2024 and the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
On Friday, when France plays Denmark at home to start defending their Nations League title, all eyes will be on the next game at the Stade de France.
Transport unions in Paris called for a new strike on Tuesday to coincide with that game. They said that their action over the weekend, which caused chaos at the Champions League final, was a “success.”