Sportsmail correspondent saw UEFA's incompetence in Paris up close

Sportsmail correspondent saw UEFA's incompetence in Paris up close

May 29, 2022

‘”People will die”, my son screamed. They did NOTHING’: Sportsmail’s DEREK LAWRENSON was at the Champions League final as a Liverpool fan and witnessed UEFA’s dangerous, reckless incompetence up close inside the frightening chaos

  • The Champions League final was marred by the appalling treatment of fans 
  • UEFA have been criticised for incompetence over the Stade de France event
  • Sportsmail‘s Derek Lawrenson witnessed supporters pepper-sprayed by police 
  • His son even pleaded that people would ‘die’, but his shouts fell on deaf ears 

From the land of J’accuse, let’s start with UEFA. What a bunch of shameless, dangerous liars they are. Amid the reckless incompetence witnessed at the Stade de France on Saturday night, they are lucky they have not got blood on their hands. I should know. I was caught up in the middle of the frightening chaos at Gate Y.

I stood next to a petite, visibly distressed woman clearly struggling for breath while security tried to close the gates. I saw the alarmed look in the eyes of my own son Conor, who is 6ft 4in and a fitness fanatic, as the crush developed and that dreaded sense of panic set in.

We got lucky, relatively speaking. I pushed the security guard in front of me, and thankfully snapped him out of his robotic daze. He backed off and let the woman through. She was weeping uncontrollably as she sped off into the night.

We were virtually the last people through before they closed the gates and the unforgivable act of tear-gassing and pepper-spraying people who had been queuing patiently for hours began.

We paused to catch our breath. Next to us, a man in his twenties held out his hands and could do nothing to stop them shaking. My mild-mannered son, 24, pleaded with stewards who were standing idly by. ‘People are going to die if you don’t do something!’ he begged, again and again. They continued to do nothing.

It is hard to do justice to the scale of the incompetence. We arrived at 6.15pm Paris time for the 9pm kick-off. Under a bridge in the shadow of the stadium, we joined an uncomfortable bottleneck of people caused by the police deciding they would only let spectators through in drabs.

Sportsmail correspondent Derek Lawrenson experienced the Champions League final chaos

UEFA have been criticised for incompetence after fans were tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed

The French pickpockets were in heaven. Next to me was a father with a plainly terrified son who looked about 10 years old.

The fans were remarkable, as we moved at a snail’s pace. At one point, everyone forgot their own discomfort to make way for a man in a wheelchair.

When we finally made it through that crush, there was still one hour and 45 minutes before kick-off. We congratulated ourselves on coming early as we joined the queue for Gate Y, alongside all the other Liverpool season ticket holders who had been successful in the club’s ballot.

And so we waited. And waited. Sometimes there was one gate open, sometimes two and occasionally none at all.

Some supporters looked to jump over the fences, while others were crammed into bottlenecks

So much for UEFA’s statement saying the problems were caused by ticketless fans, or supporters with fake tickets. I saw two or three of each at most. The wait was down to disorganisation.

Again, the fans were remarkable. Totally unsupervised, hardly anyone tried to jump the queue until it became clear that kick-off time was approaching and the line was hardly moving. As we approached the gate, people started jumping from the outside line to ours and so the crush ensued that was wholly avoidable.

The subsequent cover-up from UEFA and the French police vividly demonstrates these people are devoid of any moral principles. To think, when we saw UEFA selling LFC hoodies for more than twice the price in the Liverpool shop back home, we just thought it was greed they were guilty of.

On Saturday night, they sucked all the joy out of what had been a magical two days. One where the Madrilenos and the Scousers came together and showed their mutual respect for their special clubs.

A police officer is pictured using pepper spray against fans outside the Stade de France, Paris

Where the Parisians embraced the vast red army who filled their pubs and who would not stop singing their songs of Anfield Road.

It is amazing what happens when you just treat football fans like human beings.

As we made our way on Saturday afternoon from the wonderful scenes of happiness and camaraderie in the fan zone, my son said: ‘Almost a shame we’ve got to go to the game, isn’t it?’

Little could he have known how prophetic his words would prove.

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