The government has commended the “faultless” behaviour of Liverpool Football Club fans at the 2022 Champions League final in Paris.
Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby, held a debate in Parliament on Tuesday morning to discuss the findings of the independent review into what went wrong before the match against Real Madrid in May last year.
Liverpool fans had to endure a crush and hostility from police as they tried to gain access to the Stade de France in a way that many have compared to the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
Supporters were pushed into overcrowded areas as Parisian police used tear gas and pepper spray on the innocent football fans. The MP shared that at least two Hillsborough survivors had taken their own lives since the match in Paris and that thousands more had been left traumatised.
Liverpool fans ‘refused to be beaten by lies and smears’
Mr Byrne delivered a powerful statement in which he thanked fellow Liverpool supporters who “refused to be beaten by the lies and smears of UEFA and the French government, straight from the Hillsborough playbook”.
The Labour MP demanded an apology from organisers, saying that no sports fan could have confidence in Paris’ ability to “safely hold a global sporting event again”. The city is of course due to host the Olympics in 2024 when games will be played at the Stade de France.
The MP added that the incident could have happened to any fans in Europe and that the broadcasting that the Champions League final was delayed due to the “late arrival of fans” made many feel “physically ill”.
MP reads emotional statement from Hillsborough survivor
The politician shared a statement received from a Hillsborough survivor which read: “As a Hillsborough survivor, I expected the policing to be focused on safety, especially given Paris’ history with terrorist attacks, including one at the Stade de France just a few years ago.
“Instead I was met with complete disorganisation, aggressive and violent policing, which resulted in my being kettled and ultimately bounced along the line of riot shields and Parisian police officers.
“32 years ago I escaped a life-threatening crush at Hillsborough and now I face a situation where I could’ve been witnessing deaths again at a football match. These things happen, people make mistakes and they need to learn from them only here, again, I had to observe the police and authorities invent a pack of lies, try and pass the blame onto innocent people rather than take responsibility for their own failings.”
Mr Bryne has worked alongside the Spirit of Shankly and Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association (LDSA) in analysing the report. LDSA chairman Ted Morris was present in Parliament and was quoted by the MP.
A statement from Mr Morris said: “We do not seek incrimination or blame, that is for others to address. We do though ask UEFA to take on board the panel recommendations and make the necessary adjustments to allow disabled supporters to follow their chosen team in Europe without having to overcome so much prejudice and navigate so many hurdles.”
Government praises ‘faultless’ Liverpool fans
Stuart Andrew MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport welcomed Mr Byrne’s speech and praised Liverpool fans for their life-saving behaviour in Paris.
Mr Andrew replied: “It is clear from the independent report, and I add my thanks to all those involved, the Liverpool fans were subjected to appalling mismanagement of an event that should be a highlight of any football supporter’s life following their club.
“The mistakes that were made in organising the final were nearly disastrous. The expert panel for the review concluded that the behaviour of Liverpool fans was a key reason why this mismanagement was not fatal. I commend their actions and welcome the judgement of the report that those fans behaved faultlessly under extreme pressure and duress.”
The Conservative MP for Pudsey confirmed that the DCMS was in touch with UEFA and would be pursuing further dialogue with supporters and an action plan. He also confirmed that the Secretary of State would be meeting with the French Sports Minister in the coming weeks to discuss the failings.
Mr Andrew added: “The government will also reflect on the lessons which can be learnt from the horrific events witnessed in Paris last year. This will inform planning for the UEFA Champions League final in 2024 at Wembley as well as our UK and Ireland bid to host Euro 2028.”