ROB DRAPER: UEFA are not fit to host major events after Paris chaos

ROB DRAPER: The report on the chaotic scenes at the Champions League final in Paris is DAMNING for UEFA… it proves this organisation is not fit to stage major events, yet its findings will likely be swept under the carpet

  • There were chaotic scenes at the Champions League final in Paris last May
  • An independent review has looked at what went wrong at the major event
  • The review is damning for UEFA and shows how dysfunctional the organisation is

Our fears, it turned out, were unfounded. When UEFA commissioned Dr Tiago Rodrigues to produce an independent review of the chaos surrounding events at the Champions League final at the Stade de France, there was a suspicion that it might get bogged down in detail and thus buried in the long grass. 

Or equivocate in verbosity and so soft pedal on Europe’s governing body. Yet Dr Rodrigues and his team have been thorough, fair and meticulous. And that is bad news for UEFA. 

This is as excoriating a report for UEFA as can be imagined, a direct challenge to that dysfunctional organisation and one which points to a deeper malaise at the heart of Europe’s governing body. 

You don’t have to be Florentino Perez to realise that many of Real Madrid’s frustrations with the organisation are legitimate and that this abject failure to stage its own flagship event safely points to a need for reform throughout European football.

Every agency involved in the organisation of the Champions League final emerges chastised and they should all be ashamed, from the Federation Francaise de Football (FFF), the Parisian police, the Consortium Stade de France and the French State itself. 

Liverpool fans struggled to get into the Stade de France in chaotic scenes last May

The independent review has shown that the organisers of the final were to blame

Only one group is exonerated. Guess which? It is the one group that France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin attempted to blame exclusively in the immediate aftermath: Liverpool fans.

It was ‘manifestly inaccurate’ to say that ‘lateness’ of fans had anything to do with the issues and, in fact, the behaviour of Liverpool fans probably saved lives.

‘Assertions concerning huge numbers of fans trying to gain entry without valid tickets have been wrongly inflated and exaggerated’ and done so ‘primarily to deflect responsibility for planning and operational failure’.

Darmanin, one of France’s most senior politicians, made those claims to the French Senate, repeating lies fed to him by police. In any decent society, this would lead to a resignation. 

That no one expects anything of the sort should not be seen as a tragic reflection on public standards in France when UK politicians and even Prime Ministers avoid accountability. Politicians on both sides of the channel are swimming in a cesspit of self justification.

What is concerning is that even now UEFA seeks to protect its own. The review wanted full transparency: UEFA’s secretary general Theodore Theodoridis initially sought to anonymise junior UEFA staff, a reasonable request, as there’s no desire for them to be thrown under the bus. 

And yet he subsequently refused to allow the witness statements of senior staff to be published without anonymisation. And even used that caveat to redact evidence that was given publicly to the French Senate by a senior UEFA executive. The review noted it was ‘very disappointed that UEFA had taken this approach’.

UEFA was not just wrong but stupid: the information will come out. Executives will have to resign. By attempting to delay or obfuscate, Theoridis amplifies UEFA’s image as an inept organisation attempting to cover up rather than a confederation looking to reform and change.

It is impossible to believe that head of UEFA Events, Martin Kallen, the man ultimately responsible for the final, can survive this report. Again, in any normal world, he would quietly resign. 

The report makes it clear that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is leading a dysfunctional organisation

It isn’t just that the review says that UEFA bear ‘primary responsibility’ for an event which it describes a ‘near miss,’ that is one which might have seen ‘mass fatalities’ due to the lack of organisation.

Nor that it finds that UEFA used ‘delegation and deference’ to the French authorities – by which it means allowing them to take the lead on the pretext of security – as an attempt to ‘avoid responsibility.’ 

Nor still that the ‘failure of UEFA’s wider senior leadership to address these issues over a number of years’ was highlighted. (That will come as no surprise to English and Scottish fans attending UEFA finals) The report says that UEFA’s own Security and Safety Unit was ‘marginalised by UEFA Events’. That is unforgiveable. And yet there is more. 

Kallen’s evidence, it says, ‘was seriously flawed and contained assertions that were objectively untrue’. It is quite clear that an official criticised in such a manner cannot be allowed to organise a major event again and retain public confidence.

There are so many jaw-dropping moments of incompetence from authorities in the report that is is hard to pick one in particular. 

Yet even on the day of the game, at 15.30, UEFA’s own external security advisors told them that the ticket check arrangements in the south west corner of the stadium, where almost all the Liverpool fans were incorrectly directed, were not ‘fit for purpose’. 

This was late, as the report notes, but there was still time to address the concern. And yet nothing was done.

This is not an organisation fit to stage major events. Nor, on the evidence of this report, is France a country fit to stage the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics. 

That both UEFA and France will go ahead and stage events in the next few months, doubtless with the blessing of World Rugby and the International Olympic Committee, simply shows that democratic accountability has ceased to function in western Europe. This is a fine report. And yet it is likely to be ignored.

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