Views of Paris – Eyewitness Accounts From Site Subscribers

Views of Paris – Eyewitness Accounts From Site Subscribers
May 31, 2022 Chris Rowland
In Free, Talking Point

 

Introduction by Chris Rowland:

It’s not the match in Paris that’s been hogging the headlines, but the troubles our fans – and in fairness some of Real’s too, though you wouldn’t think so judging by the almost total lack of coverage – had in gaining access to the stadium, and also the problems caused by local gangs.

We’ve collated some of the responses of those who were there and experienced it first hand, and also those who offered their views and thoughts on the site subsequently.

It amounts to a chillingly fascinating read. A club that’s had more than its share of fan-related issues in the past knows better than any the devastating effect when football’s governing bodies, police forces, political masters and premeditated agendas combine. Can we really be discussing these sort of problems all over again? With Liverpool fans being painted as the villains by the football authorities, the police and especially the French Government.

This time however, there are crucial differences. First, social media comment and video coverage exists that did previously. And this time, a whole range of people have been affected and witneessed what happened first-hand – sponsors and corpoate clients, the Mayor of Liverpool and a Liverpool MP, the media including Gary Lineker and Henry Winter, and a number of ex-Reds players and in one case a current player, Andy Robertson, whose mate was accused of having a fake ticket despite it coming from the player himself from his allocation!

Deep breath; here we go.

Paulwalkersanddiego:

I arrived through the same tunnel where I believe the team bus was delayed, at 6:40. We had given ourselves plenty of time to get to the ground.

The traffic was moving very slow so we walked the last section to get to the stadium. There was a mass of people trying to get to the stadium gates and everybody was moving super slowly. I didn’t actually get to a gate till around 8.15pm. I was in section Z. But lined up in section Y, logically assuming this would be fine as you could see people had the ability to simply walk to Z, once through the gate. There were no stewards outside to line up on your exact section.

The lady at the gate said you have to go to Z. So to the back of the line to Z gate I went. Upon arrival, it appeared that we were not moving at all. But everyone was being very patient and relaxed.

The only place that I had shown my ticket to far was the Y gate lady !! So obviously people without tickets may have gotten this far also. Unlike Madrid, where they had multiple layers of checking, resulting in fewer people getting to the final turnstile checkpoint.

We waited around 45 minutes in line. The gate was fully closed and nobody at all was being allowed in. It was now getting closer to 9 p.m. People were understandably getting frustrated because of this terrible organisation. “Just” before 9pm, around 15 to 20 people, who may, or may not have not had tickets decided they had enough and started to climb the fence. this was not happening previously.

It was getting a bit tense now, the front was getting squashed and people were telling others to push backwards. I was thinking of previous problematic games, and wondering should I just get out of the line and head to a pub instead.

As soon as the people climbed the fence., everybody in the line was pepper sprayed. This was maybe (I could not see, but from the groans and swearing) I bet around 500 people that had been very patient up till that moment.

After the pepper spray, everyone was now getting into extreme pissed off mode. I could not see for at least five minutes. I had had enough of that gate so continued walking around to try and find another gate to get through. It was now around 9.30.

I went to C gate as it had a lessor queue. At this stage all organisation had gone out of the window. People’s tickets were barely even getting checked. The stewards were frantic and overwhelmed. I finally got to my seat after being misdirected, seconds before kick off.

I was born in Liverpool with all my family still there, and was at Anfield for the Wolves game, which was my first game back since Covid. Everything was very organised. Stewards knew what their job was.

It was a sad outcome, but great experience. I had had my daughter’s graduation to fly back to, in San Diego, and had to then immediately turn right back around and travel back for this game.
This was something I was ecstatic about having the chance to go to. But the whole experience has left me massively disappointed. I can’t say how poorly this whole thing appeared to have been set up. Clueless staff, overly aggressive but poorly organised cops. On top of this, you look at other absurdities, such as how few tickets are given out. Then Uefa staff sell their allotted tickets at a massive upsell (this is fortunate for me) but fucked for the folks who go every week and can’t get a face value ticket. Then the world cup bullshit debacle and think that these fuckers could not organise a piss up in a brewery.

This shit has got to change – even if it stops me from getting this type of ticket in the future. It’s bullshit and we wonder why lads are even trying to climb the fence. They say I’ll do whatever it takes to get in. Is this any worse than the corporate greed that fucked them over? It’s obviously not good, but I can see the reasoning. And as I stated, some of these people climbing might have had tickets but said enough was enough.

I hate writing. But this has done my head in enough to want me to give a clearer picture of how I believe the shit went down. Especially as it appeared on French TV last night that they where throwing the blame straight on the fans for arriving late. Usual bullshit lies to hide their own failings.

Stevenson1988:

I need to add something to my comments from last night. As a result of where we are staying, we took Metro Line 13 to the stadium, arriving at St Denis Porte de Paris station before 6.00 pm. Crucially, this was at the Real Madrid end. We crossed the bridge over the motorway and sauntered across an open area to the first check point where our match tickets were activated on my phone. We were patted down, but no more than that, told we couldn’t take our bottles of water in, yet they didn’t check my wife’s handbag. We then strolled the few hundred yards to the stadium.

There were very few police around although at one point a small group headed in the direction whence we came. I bought a programme and a couple of beers, then around 7.00 pm we walked round a bit of a bottleneck to “turnstile” U. Our tickets were scanned, by wife’s bag checked briefly and in we went. Clearly this experience offered to presumably most of the Madrid fans was not the same as the treatment meted out to our fans – why?

The return journey after the match was like the retreat from Moscow with local thugs constantly trying to provoke confrontation and cause trouble. Not only did they infiltrate the crowd but they lined the route hurling abuse. As I’ve already said, we witnessed one of them going for a knife when someone pushed them away. Chaotic scenes in the Metro station as well, so in the end they just let us board the train.

My thoughts are: why treat the two sets of fans totally differently? Did the behaviour at the Euros last summer colour their thinking? Would they have treated any other fans (rugby as an example) this way? Why is the infrastructure so poor and seemingly so difficult to police? The stadium “only” holds 75,000. So does Old Trafford, Anfield 55,000 yet nobody experiences these problems on match day. Why were the only police in evidence the riot police? Why no ordinary police and stewarding outside the ground? How were local thugs allowed to get into the ground itself – we had one come to stand in our row to watch the second half – except he didn’t watch the game, he was on his phone the entire time!

Serious questions have to be asked. Did UEFA learn nothing from Heysel and Hillsborough? I know they had to switch venues, but there could have been fatalities last night and it’s a miracle there weren’t. Kids tear gassed for God’s sake – my wife spoke to a distraught mother who has followed Liverpool everywhere and never seen the like. Her kids were gassed and her 10 year old son put in a headlock by police!

Could I just urge everyone who was there to write to anyone they can think of about this. Certainly write to the club as they need evidence, but also local MPs and even UEFA themselves. It is highly unlikely anything will change – it will probably take another disaster for that to happen – but you never know.

One last thought; if this doesn’t hasten the arrival of a European Super League, nothing will. For how long will the billionaire and state owners of clubs put up with this shambles? Whatever the rights and wrongs of the ownership, there are huge amounts of money at stake. These guys operate at the highest of levels and they will not tolerate UEFA’s gang of amateur comedians besmirching their product. It might not happen yet, but it will. UEFA and its corrupt, inept set up will eventually lose its power, because the big clubs will no longer stand for it.

To close, I hope everyone who went to watch a game of football last night managed to get back safely, notwithstanding the combined efforts of the authorities and the police. Now where have we heard that before?!

Ben:

I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life.

We turned up at the stadium getting funnelled in in a massive crowd with seemingly no way to get up on the actual concourse. We had to turn right and started being forced down a pathway no more then 6 foot wide with a load of scooters parked on it. Gangs of locals climbing walls etc all over the place. We started doing a lap of the stadium until we found a road that led up to it where we got straight in. This was around in line with the half way line I would guess. From there, we walked through clouds of tear gas to get to gate Z where you’ve all heard what was going on. An utter shambles from start to finish.

The access to the stadium wasn’t good enough for a crowd of this size but surely it copes at other times so it must be fully down to how the police had arranged it.

I only found out what was happening through phone calls to home, there wasn’t a single announcement made. While in the queue I had an altercation with a young French lad who had a fake ticket with gate X on it. He hasn’t alone and I got pulled away by others. Whether he got in or not I don’t know. I’d already had messages form various WhatsApp groups, can’t take scousers anywhere etc, so I wasn’t in the mood. I’d already had my Mrs on the phone upset and worried and basically begging me to leave and watch in a bar.Once inside, the atmosphere was strange. There were moments of it getting lively, but it all seemed disconnected. The bloke next to me didn’t make a single sound throughout, he just stood in silence. Looking around, it was clear that a number of people weren’t in the right mindset to watch a game anymore. I can only imagine how anyone in that crowd who has any close connection to or was at Hillsborough must have been feeling, the sense of panic at times was awful.

Then, on the way out, people were literally being chased and attacked by gangs as we walked to the station. Even in the station, there were groups of pickpockets getting onto the same train back to Gare du Nord.

I hope Paris is never chosen for something like this again, an utter disgrace from start to finish.

Jennifer:

We spent several days in Paris before the game and everything was great. In the morning we decided to do a recce of the route – thank goodness we did. The area around the stadium is not particularly salubrious and Gare de Nord, where you get the train, is rather intimidating. We checked exactly which entrance etc and we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until Mick’s 5 day Metro ticket wouldn’t work. No staff anywhere but fortunately a woman just shoved her ticket in and grabbed him to get through with her! We then spent over an hour at Gare du Nord trying to sort it out. Apparently they can get demagnetised and you have to queue for ages if you can eventually find the kiosk for a free replacement. Others were in the queue for the same reason. We abandoned it and paid for another. This was the start of the Parisian Experience.

Before every game we have a row. This is because I want to go extra early ‘ in case.’ Fortunately we did that last night. We arrived at 5.45. We got in easily but in retrospect you could see how the system just wouldn’t cope once the crowd built up. There were at least a couple of turnstiles that weren’t open. We had paper tickets and scanned the QR. A couple we spoke to at breakfast had them on their phones. Their son was due to bring his 8 yr old son but his wife said it wasn’t safe. How right she was. They had a delay as the scanner didn’t recognise the code. It was then bluetoothed to another steward’s phone which did recognise it. Perhaps this was a problem rather than the fake ticket defence? In any case, let’s put that to rest. In every big game, any sport, any club, there must be a recognition by the authorities that this could be a problem and this should be part of their logistics. We were told by LFC to bring ID such as passports. No-one checked these. If they had, imagine the delays.

We saw rows of empty seats at the LFC end during the warm up and wondered why. Late flights? Pre-match drinks? Then the message came on the boards. ‘Late arrival’. And ‘Security issues’. The RM end was full – with plastic flags too. A guy next to us had come in through that end and said there were very few police and no narrow entry. In addition, the body searches were done by patting down by about 6 people. One patter for women so I was held up. No scanners. Who could imagine how that could be done as the crowds grew?

Then we got worried texts from our son and a friend. Wondered why. It started to fill up eventually and the game got underway.

And so to the arrangements. The Stade de France is a shithole ( first time in my life that word has been part of my active rather than passive vocabulary). Wembley is a palace in comparison. The WCs would have brought shame to a third world camp site. Three urinals for the men in our section and four cubicles for the women. There were no seats, soap, towels or hand dryers in the Wcs. And this in the Time of Cholera!You could see, even as we came in, how the entry arrangements were just inadequate for a large event. The way up to the entrance was through a narrow dark underpass where preliminary but desultory ticket checks were done. This gave access to the main concourse. You went to the gate and there the searches and ticket checks were done. There was no proper technology for searches or for ticket checks, insufficient and callow staff, the barriers were inadequate and the process slow. Reflections afterwards on the arrangements are based on conversations with people who were caught up in it. One chap in our hotel – no youngster – was with a group. His friend has his daughter. They were in the top price seats so not exactly people without tickets wanting trouble. The friend and daughter were tear gassed, local youths managed to get into the concourse and another had his wallet stolen and his watch, which was dropped on the floor. Incidentally, he texted another friend to meet up but he was still in Liverpool as his flight was cancelled!

A lot of it felt like the police couldn’t handle the locals and so took it out on the fans. I was lucky enough to avoid most of the trouble before the game as I went into Gate U but walking past about 90mins before kick off you could see the fans were already becoming desperate, even appealing to Jason McAteer to help! Another older couple arrived at the stadium shortly after us and were there just as the blockages started. They were crushed while waiting as a result of delays not poor behaviour. They managed to get in but it took them ages. I have described the couple not having their tickets recognised. Andy Robertson said that official LFC tickets he gave to friends were checked as fakes.

During the week there was an interview with Thierry Henry who warned Liverpool fans that effectively “the game is not in Paris, it is in St Denis and you must be prepared for that.” I’ve been to a few games at this stadium before but I was still shocked at how we were basically fed to the wolves after the game. That wasn’t my experience in any other game but this was the only one involving an English football team so it’s anyone’s guess as to why this time would be different.

Perhaps surprisingly, the reaction here in France has been almost universal condemnation of the authorities (for their disorganisation, brutality and lying) and the lawlessness of those total bell ends in St Denis. Prominent politicians and groups have come out really strongly in support of the English and are demanding that the investigations are transparent and urgent. You don’t need any further evidence of how appalling the whole thing was than having the full-throated support of the French (except for the Interior Ministry which even yesterday was congratulating the police on a job well done.)

We saw no trouble from LFC fans afterwards in the concourse or the Metro and all the pictures we have seen appear to show how astonishingly reasonable they were. If they had not been, imagine how it could have been.

The support during the game was flat and we’ll never know how that affected the outcome but one thing is for sure, when the chips are down the players tend to find that extra few percent thanks to the crowd. There’s no doubt that could easily have made the difference over 90 minutes.

This is written in an absolute rage. And relief. I honestly don’t know how we would have managed if we had been kettled like this for hours. What I can say is that if we had been caught up in it and had been physically capable, I reckon we might have been climbing the fences. So, I feel proud of those thousands who put up with it.

Ccm:

Probably my lowest point as a match going Liverpool fan last night. Wasn’t even arsed about the game by the time it kicked off. Saw grown men crying. Poor distressed kids crying. Loads of our fans were in shock at what they’d endured and it just felt a bit flat near me. Know a few who just gave up trying to get in.

What upsets me the most is seeing our rival fans taking great pleasure in trying to blame us and score cheap points.

A really sad end to a brilliant season.

David:

UEFA are the judge, jury, executioner and the culprit. So we know the outcome of any investigation.

My partner and I (both in our sixties) got the pepper spray treatment at gate Y. Fans were singing “nice and slow nice and slow, nice and slow” and “shuffle like a penguin”. No trouble at all. We saw 8 and 10 year olds crying after being gassed and I did get a film crew to film a young girl but not sure where film crew was from.

As reported they shut gates with no explanation for 45 mins – when they re -opened they got people through quite quickly. So it was possible to do. So We got to seats as team came out. There were quite a few empty seats around us.

Based on reports, I wonder did their system crash? As I hear of and have spoken to people who had genuine tickets that were not scanning correctly and were turned away. A re boot might explain why they closed the gates and then re opened them when there were even more people queuing.

PS we got to the ground two hours before kick-off. I was appalled at the deployment of riot police and took photos. Disgraceful but there will be yet another cover up I fear.

Alex:

When I posted yesterday post match I deleted part of my post. I found myself becoming what UEFA etc want me to.

“After these scenes I really wish we had won it and Hendo had taken Ol’ Big Ears by the base and twatted Čeferin, his cronies, the delegates, the celebrities, Nadal and all their smugness for just being there with Robbo giving them an extra shoeing.”

The early barbs the LFC fans took seem to have been drowned in reports of incompetence, underhand tactics and heavy handed policing. We now have phones and immediate reporting on multiple platforms. With my own disabilities and health conditions, I can’t imagine the consequences if I’d been pepper sprayed. Would the French paramedics have looked after me, or if I can be so cliched, would they have seen a Liverpool fan and just given a Gallic shrug? I’ve heard of other disabled people being treated appallingly, kids, the elderly fans. Policing has responsibilities and the French showed none.

I’m even more proud of the club this morning, their prompt and strong administrative action to highlight these events.

While the fans who’ve been attacked, sprayed, didn’t get in will not be reimbursed in any way for their treatment, and the authorities won’t admit a damn thing, we all know the truth. We did before. You can’t paint the same picture twice.

NickM:

The fact that people from the press have been caught up in this, and everyone having mobile phones allows some of what has occurred to be filmed as evidence. That hasn’t and won’t stop the authorities from trying to blame football fans, especially Liverpool fans because of past events. It will be easier to fight back against this narrative with the evidence and the first hand accounts being heard on the radio and TV. It is so much harder to shut this down now than it was back in 89.

In Madrid they had a huge perimeter around the ground for initial ticket checking with a lot of entrances into the immediate surrounding of the stadium. It seems that in Paris they have tried to restrict the number of entrances therefore causing bottlenecks.

There will always be blaggers and hundreds or even thousands of fake tickets about but these need to be dealt with in an organised fashion. When there is a build up of supporters around the barrier, turning them back through even small crowds is not easy so why not have a process which allows them through but they are escorted to an exit 20/30 metres away.

Shutting the gates, for whatever reason is the stupidest thing that can be done. You can’t dam a river and then act all surprised when it floods.

Despite the narrative to paint Liverpool fans as at fault, in general they know how to behave at these big events and do get to the stadium earlier than for a normal run of the mill event. There are many more checks in place these days and having been involved in 6 CL/EL finals over the past 17 years are well accustomed to what happens.

Anthony O’Brien:

Along with Robbo calling them out over one of the tickets he got from the club being “fake”, those issues reported by Madrid fans need to be pushed wider to show up that it was not just a Liverpool problem.

Someone else mentioned that the Real Madrid fan area was only 1km from the ground where the Liverpool one was 45 minutes away by public transport. That would also help to explain why the Madid fans had an “easier” time getting in, as word would have gone around of problems they’d head out earlier.

It’s looking more and more of a clear cut case of a total organisation failure.

Humdul1:

There isn’t much I can add from what has been already said apart from agree to the things I witnessed. This is my very short summary of the day.

I went with my mate for the match. The fan park was brilliant – they opened up the gates around 1.30 (I think) but before that there was a great atmosphere of fans milling about outside and having a great time. We stayed towards the back as we wanted to make a quick dash for it with enough time to spare to soak in the atmosphere – this was going to be our first ever Champions League final.

We decided to start heading to the station just slightly before Jamie was closing out his set – around 5.20 ish. The train journey to the stadium was very smooth and event free, and in good humour with a lot of the locals. We got out of the station (RER B line) and hung around for 15-20 minutes having a drink at a bar before starting to walk towards the stadium – this is probably 6.30 now.

And that is when we got this massive queue in the tunnel. It didn’t seem that big at first, we just thought it should clear fast enough. We ended up in this queue for an hour and a half – there was no pushing, everyone was still in good spirits, singing etc… However, it was claustrophobic, which I am, but what saved me was that I had had a few drinks, which slightly lowered by inhibitions and I was in a happy mood.

However, I did witness one person fainting, and the police just shrugging as if there is nothing they could do – someone gave him some water and lifted him, and I think he was ok. Another seemed to have some sort of an issue and he had an inhaler, and the police took him to one side. Eventually, the police opened up the checking points as I have no idea what idiot decided to have four people trying to check 20K people with tickets who were all kettled along this tunnel.

We got to our ticket gate at 8.20, and as we were in the neutral zone, it was not as busy as some of the other gates we passed. Here, my mobile ticket was not activating, but I managed to tether up to my mate’s phone and activate my ticket. We got in without issues.

We decided to leave straight after the final whistle, and I think the fact we were going to take Metro Line 13 probably saved us from getting mugged. We did see loads of locals running into the stadium as we were leaving, and some just hanging by, trying to mug people. We walked as fast as we could and got to the train safely, and had an eventful journey back.

I consider ourselves very lucky as although we encountered issues, we got off largely without any incident. Some of the stories I have read were horrific. The organisation was a shambles at the stadium.

JohnnyBgood:

I would like to share your experience with my son (29) who also attended the match with his girlfriend (28) and her father aged in his fifties. My son and his girlfriend both work for LFC and the club (Billy Hogan) have asked for feedback from members of staff who attended as part of their response to UEFA. From what my son told me, he felt powerless to protect his girlfriend, was tear gassed three times…. once for going to the loo! He said the Police took no action to stop the French thugs (Ultras?) trying to bypass the queues of the legitimate LFC fans and scale the fences to get into the ground. After the match my son his girlfriend and her father felt very unsafe with the French running amok, amid many reports of mugging. We went to the parade on Sunday but steered clear of the Strand (& the busiest areas), watching at the start in Allerton to avoid crowds because in the immediate aftermath of Paris my son and his girlfriend felt unsafe being in a large crowd. LFC have promised ‘support’ to any member of staff who requires it. Thanks for publishing your experience, If everyone affected could write down their experience in their own words it will only add to the pressure that will be brought to bear to make UEFA and others accountable. Hopefully it will dispel the lies that were written about LFC fans (Daily Mail online headline being a prime example) and prevent a recurrence at this or any other venue ever again.

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