2022 – There is no excuse for UEFA to repeat Hillsborough by immediately blaming Liverpool fans | UEFA

TTwo days after the Paris atrocities, in which UEFA showed a shocking disregard for the lessons of Hillsborough and other football disasters, Liverpool already faced something else: beware of an ‘independent investigation’.

Portuguese MP Thiago Brandao Rodriguez may be the strongest independent spirit, but he was hired by UEFA to carry out a review of the Champions League fiasco, and UEFA itself became the focus of the necessary investigations.

The disaster struck by the police and promoters at the wretched approach, with tear gas in the French National Stadium, was quickly identified mostly by fans with video evidence, the comprehensive organization Football Fans Europe and some excellent coverage of the game by sports writers. As is often the case, the causes for the chaos can be frighteningly simple: the police had no practical system of searching beyond the turnstiles for valid tickets, and instead held thousands of people in a ridiculous bottleneck for ages before giving up entirely. Then there were breakdowns and shutdowns at the turnstiles which led to more massive static queues, which were exacerbated by some groups of local boys taking the risk of getting in.

Policemen equipped with tear gas have been depicted on innocent people, young and old, sometimes with a touch of bored sarcasm, so even French ministers don’t deny it. The only real sticking point that remains, although highly toxic, is the amount of blockage of the turnstile caused by the fake tickets. Ministers’ claims that 70% or 30-40,000 of Liverpool fans have fake tickets or no tickets sounds absurd – where were all those tens of thousands of people physically? – But there will be some routine issues that have to be dealt with in any big game. But many Liverpool fans said their tickets, whether they were bought at a high price or even, as Andy Robertson said, officially issued to VIPs, were not scanned at the gates.

But any proper investigation must also ask how and why, amid all this danger, UEFA made two announcements, one on the big screen for the whole world to see and immediately blamed on Liverpool fans. This was an unmistakable echo of the police defenses on the ground in Hillsborough and it was truly shocking to see UEFA issue an instant remote verdict.

The credibility of the initial announcement – the late arrival of fans – did not last a minute, and thousands of people immediately protested that they had been held outside for hours. However, UEFA called up a second after the match, accusing ‘thousands’ of Liverpool fans of possessing fake tickets that instinctively seemed out of reach – and clearly not yet identified.

The same fans who were immediately blamed suffered what many considered the worst part of a horrific event: a horrific walk to train stations, where they were violently assaulted and robbed.

Some in UEFA’s witty Aleksander Ceferin may dismiss the comparison with the 1989 South Yorkshire Police lies that fans blame, but that will only lead to more ignorance. The stories in UEFA statements were similar to what happened in Hillsborough: Liverpool fans leaving without a ticket. The survivors of the 97 people unlawfully killed in the FA Cup semi-final have been forced to fight for decades to refute the simple but toxic victim blame. It took 27 years for the 2016 investigative jury to reject police lies outright and determine that the cause of the disaster was the blatant mismanagement of a major football game by the police.

UEFA’s reckless comments have unleashed a toxic wave on social media, once again showing just how obstinate the original police lies can be for people whose support for football is expressed in the form of biased hatred of rivals. It seemed that there was no longer a line of respect that some did not cross on Saturday night and even the bereaved family members were poached and humiliated.

Such is the legacy of the trauma that thousands of Liverpool fans experience at every football match they attend. With youths banned from UEFA ticket prices until 2022, many in Paris were Hillsborough survivors, now in their 50s and 60s. There is simply no excuse for UEFA to be so ignorant.

A Liverpool man feeling the effects of tear gas enters the Paris stadium as others queue outside. Image source: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

As French ministers dealt with their unlikely event, it was also clear that British football fans would not be helped at all by Brexit, another British outcome fueled by toxic lies on social media. It seems that those who have been pushing for Brexit have given little thought to the fact that Britons will be traveling, vacationing and watching football in Europe forever. There will always be some misfortune, and under these circumstances the British now lack equal rights and a government with a seat at the table.

The rest of Europe sees the British in separate lines, while Boris Johnson’s government ignites exacerbating battles with France over migrant crossings or clam hunting. Just as swiping French seems to be beneficial to a certain mentality in Britain, the French government seems more comfortable blaming Liverpool fans than confronting their own police thugs.

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The main lesson from Hillsborough, and any other public disaster, is to wait until the facts can be established and not immediately pass judgment that blames the victims. UEFA came to know very little about this principle and unaware of Liverpool’s sensibilities was part of the night terrors.

It needs a truly independent investigation to uncover evidence of the disastrous organization of the UEFA Grand Final and the authorities’ allegations of a diversion – including UEFA announcements. Therefore, there may be some caution before trusting an investigation by UEFA itself.