Champions League final: France blames ‘massive’ ticket fraud as policing row rages

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France has hit out at what it says was “industrial-scale” ticket fraud at Saturday’s Champions League final despite a row over the game’s policing.

Ministers acknowledged “difficulties” in managing crowds at the final in Paris, but say organised fraud was the “root cause” of the problems.

Liverpool ticket-holders were seen waiting in huge queues, with French police using pepper spray, fans said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be “hugely disappointed”.

The final was delayed by 35 minutes by the trouble outside the stadium, with Liverpool losing the match against Spain’s Real Madrid 1-0.

Amid a chorus of criticism from the UK, the French sports ministry has been meeting Europe’s football governing body Uefa, the French Football Association, stadium officials and police to “draw lessons” from the event.

But France’s interior and sports ministers have been pointing initial blame for the chaos at fans with fake tickets and local youths trying to force their way into the stadium.

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin said “massive, industrial-scale” ticket fraud had caused Liverpool fans to turn up en masse and said that of about 30 arrests made at the Stade de France “more than a half concerned British citizens”.

Speaking earlier on French radio, sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra said there were “no problems” regarding Real supporters and the Spanish side had controlled their travelling fans better than Liverpool.

Mr Darmanin also defended the police’s actions, stating that “the decisions taken prevented deaths or serious injury”.

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described footage from the Stade de France at the weekend as “deeply upsetting and concerning” and called for a full investigation.

Uefa initially blamed the “late arrival” of fans for the problems.

But Merseyside police, who are responsible for policing in Liverpool and were present in Paris, said the vast majority of Liverpool fans arrived early at the turnstiles and behaved in an “exemplary manner”.

Saturday’s TV footage showed young men who did not appear to be wearing red Liverpool shirts jumping the stadium gates and then running away from security.

Liverpool fans spoke of long queues building up hours before the match started.

Tom Whitehurst said he had to get his disabled son “out of the way” after they were pepper-sprayed.

“The treatment of supporters by Uefa and the police was an absolute disgrace,” he said. “[Fans] were indiscriminately pepper-sprayed and there were people with tickets, who arrived two-and-a-half hours early, who were queuing up and they were charged at by riot police with shields.”

Source: BBC

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