TThe truly shocking revelation of the French police’s disastrous approach to the Champions League final in Paris came out in full view in the first erroneous official account of the near-disaster released last Friday. Perhaps unwittingly, the report’s author, Michel Cadot, an official at the French sports ministry, has shed the most clear light on why the showcase evening of European football has descended into violence and chaos.
A single sentence of police “reconnaissance” before the match provided the first clue as to why the officers were so armed and acted as self-styled extreme defenders of civilization rather than protectors of the safety of the fans who came to the match. a brilliant finale with hope in the hearts.
This seems to confirm the worst suspicions of Liverpool and their supporters: a note that the Paris police prepared for the 2022 Champions League final, referring to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. At Hillsborough, 97 people were unlawfully killed in appalling circumstances due to gross police negligence in organizing the match, and the Liverpool fans behaved well and heroically. But from this historic disaster, the French police concluded that while security breaches were the cause of the deaths, they needed “a solid police organization to maintain order in the special forces in order to be able to respond to the risk of collective phenomena of hooliganism.” and ruin.”
There are two general ways in which this has been catastrophically misinterpreted. The first and most obvious reason, caustic ignorance, has sparked renewed resentment and despair among the Hillsborough families and survivors who have uncovered the truth in a 27-year campaign for justice against the lies of the South Yorkshire police. The second points to an even more egregious failure of intelligence and planning: why on earth would the Paris police even think about Hillsborough? In order to prepare for this finale in our time of modern, rich, tech-controlled security football, when the maximum ticket price was 690 euros, why would the police have confused themselves with some ignorant view of what happened 33 years ago?
Since then, Liverpool have continued to play football every season; they played in the French capital against Paris Saint-Germain as recently as 2018. As Cado’s report even admits, they are generally not a hassle, but somehow did the police prepare for a riot due to the 1989 disaster?
Cado is a Sports Ministry delegate reporting to Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castera, who, while acknowledging the need to “improve the organization of these difficult matches,” doubled down on official allegations, which UEFA also has not withdrawn, that thousands of Liverpool fans with counterfeit tickets were a significant part of the problem. His report backs up her claims, with a confusing hodgepodge of figures and alleged evidence, though he acknowledges organizational confusion at the Stade de France. But he mentions Hillsborough’s “intelligence” only in passing, as if it were real and not indicative of gross negligence in the training of the Parisian police.
It is the element of the near-disaster on May 28 that most needs a thorough, independent, transparent investigation, which is what Liverpool and Real Madrid are seeking, but so far to no avail. The messy organization raises urgent questions about UEFA’s own remit, but the French government’s appalling policing and acquiescence in it paints a disturbing picture of France itself. So far, his ministers seem to take it only vaguely, acknowledging that their attempts to blame Liverpool supporters have been unsuccessful and reluctantly acknowledging that the chaos has been a disgrace to the country’s image. Everything is much more serious: the scenes shocked the world.
To be clear, pre-reconnaissance is, of course, a routine and necessary part of planning any football game. But it is vanishingly unlikely that the French police would have received such nonsense about Hillsborough from any other organization involved in the planning.
Geoff Pearson, professor of law at the University of Manchester, an expert on football fan behavior and safety regulations, explains that French police have regularly sent riot police to football matches for years.
“This is happening independently of intelligence so there is an important question that remains to be answered as to why the French police are using protective equipment, but I don’t think that will change any time soon.”
Real intelligence would presumably tell the police that the Liverpool fans who would pay that money and go to Paris would be people like those who have since expressed horror at how their dream trip turned out. A dad who bought a prize ticket as a gift for his 11-year-old son, who then tear gas on turnstiles. Many middle-aged people who stood for hours in these immobile lines were then formally accused by UEFA of being late, then of being involved in massive ticket fraud, and then brutally attacked and robbed at night in Saint-Denis on their way back.
The stone-faced, pepper spray-wielding cops in their Hillsborough ‘intelligence’ would not have considered the reality that 24,000 Liverpool fans were involved in that 1989 disaster. Many, including many of the 97 who died, were young at the time because football was more accessible back then; tickets to Leppings Lane Terraces cost £6. So, a lot of those who survived that terrible day are still rooting for Liverpool, they are already over 50-60, and they were at the match in Paris. Many experts point out that the trauma and the collective memory of Hillsborough contributed to the “exemplary” fan behavior as Merseyside police described it, and prevented the horrific bottlenecks laid down by the French police into another fatal stampede.
But it should never have come to this: real intelligence about Hillsborough should inform police and stewards that they are entrusted with the safety of people who have been let down disastrously in the past and who are still suffering from injuries.
Just as there remains a disastrously misunderstood understanding of the truth about Hillsborough, so does a lack of understanding of a complete overhaul of security, as regulated by law, to protect against a repetition of it. The terrible twist is that the French police’s ignorance of Hillsborough contributed to them nearly causing another disaster as they prepared for the riot and failed to focus on the safe flow of visitors, to a faulty stadium in a rough area on a day even more complicated by rail traffic. strike.
Neither Liverpool nor Real Madrid are yet satisfied with the terms of the “independent review” hurriedly set up by UEFA two days later, or the experience or suitability of its appointed chairman, Portuguese MP Dr. Thiago Brandão Rodrigues. Liverpool executives also have serious reservations about Cado’s report, given that no club has contributed and the evidence on which it is based is scarce.
The real information on Hillsborough will include an institutional understanding followed by an independent inquiry by the respected judge Lord Justice Taylor. He established the ground truth, and also revealed the many unsafe factors that caused this calamity to wait for years. It is inexcusable that, 33 years later, eight people died in the Africa Cup of Nations disaster, and European football is now in danger. However, a thorough, independent, transparent investigation, which is clearly needed, is still a long way off, while the momentary official impulse to blame the victims has clearly stood the test of time.