A sports federation has but two jobs when it comes to putting on a tournament final: start the damn thing on time, and make sure everyone gets into the stadium in a safe, orderly fashion. UEFA failed to accomplish either of these goals at Saturday’s Champions League Final.
The game, which took place at Stade de France in Paris, kicked off 35 minutes after it was scheduled to start due to a pair of delays. It wasn’t immediately clear what was causing the delays, but word eventually got out that something had gone wrong and was preventing thousands of Liverpool fans from entering the stadium on time. The first explanation anyone got came from UEFA, which made an in-stadium announcement blaming the delay on late-arriving fans.
That explanation started to come apart rather quickly as reports from outside the stadium filtered in. Fans and reporters on the ground clarified that Liverpool fans had been lined up for more than two hours, but couldn’t get into the stadium because they had been penned into a bottleneck and only given one gate to enter through. The Daily Mail’s Rob Draper was in line with those Liverpool fans, and described a total organizational failure by those who were running things at the stadium:
Once the game was over, UEFA pivoted away from the late-arriving fans explanation and tried to pin the mess on Liverpool fans who tried to get into the stadium using fake tickets. “In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who had purchased fake tickets which did not work at the turnstiles,” UEFA’s statement read. “This created a build-up of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kick off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access.”
Even if there was a rampant problem with fake tickets, and that is hard to believe given how quickly UEFA’s original excuse for the delay fell apart, that still does not adequately explain why there was only one gate open to thousands of Liverpool fans. And it definitely does not explain why police decided to mace and tear gas fans who were just trying to get into a game they had paid to attend.
No matter how many fans were attempting to pass off fake tickets, and no matter how agitated the Liverpool fans may have gotten at not being allowed into the stadium, there’s no good excuse for subjecting kids to pepper spray and tear gas. UEFA’s tried and failed to explain exactly what happened several time since the game ended, and they still have a lot more explaining left to do.