IAN LADYMAN: UEFA’s contempt for fans has to end … despite finally saying they’re sorry for Champions League final chaos… the buck passing must stop now here
- UEFA issued apology to Liverpool and Real Madrid fans after last week’s chaos
- After denial, they were backed into the corner from which there was no way out
- Football’s relationship with it’s customer base has been out of whack for a while
- The buck passing by UEFA must stop having seen contempt for what it really is
When the first words of contrition, responsibility and regret were finally communicated from UEFA shortly before tea-time yesterday, they came accompanied by a raft of promises.
In the space of a few paragraphs were to be found just about every appropriate verb they could muster. UEFA will — they say — identify, understand, determine, establish, examine, assess and engage.
After six days of denial, obfuscation and dishonest accusation, UEFA finally reached the conclusion that they had — by sheer weight of evidence — been backed into the corner from which there was no way out.
UEFA has ‘sincerely’ apologised to all fans affected by the chaotic events last weekend
But as they move forward now and whichever turns their enquiry takes, something fundamental and vital must immediately change. It is something much more important than any printed promise contained within a 6pm press release. It is more significant than words on a yellow ‘breaking news’ ticker on Sky Sports News.
It is the engrained and frankly offensive assumption that when things go wrong at a football match, it must be the supporters who are to blame.
It was this idle assumption that led UEFA to announce before kick-off in Paris last Saturday night that the Champions League final would be delayed because supporters were late.
It was this that prompted the French authorities and police to blame the chaotic, dangerous scenes outside the Stade de France on supporters arriving with fake tickets. It was this that, by midnight, had Liverpool supporters tried and convicted on social media after being funnelled into a spring nightmare that was absolutely not of their making.
European football’s governing body announced that it had launched an independent review into the events that took place outside the Stade de France before and after the match
This is why UEFA have taken so long to do what is right and honest this week. This is why the French continue to dig in their heels.
Football’s opinion of its own customers — its own life blood — has been so disparagingly low for so long that it has been at the very heart of all we have seen, heard and read over recent days.
To those of us who were there, it was very obvious something wasn’t quite right as far out as three hours before kick-off. Even then, just before 6pm, it was impossible not to detect the sense of vague chaos at the perimeter that had been set up to act as a first ticket check.
There wasn’t enough room for everybody, even at that time. The stewards and police seemed nervous and agitated. There was pushing and shoving and that unsettling sense a crowd that was growing steadily with each passing minute was already far from under control. And that was 6pm.
French police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters outside the stadium
What subsequently occurred before kick-off was clear to those who were there. It is there on mobile phone footage of those who suffered and it is there in the spoken testimonies.
It is on CCTV camera reels and it will be there, somewhere, buried deep in the consciousness of the police officers who chose pepper spray over compassion and then turned their backs when families were being assaulted by local hoodlums on their way home.
And this is the real shame of all this. It’s not even that UEFA and the French were so incompetent as to allow this to happen on their watch. No, it’s that when it did, their first instinct was not to reach out but to hunker down, protect themselves and seek to pass the blame to those this great sport is meant to serve in the first place.
It is one thing to fail in a duty of care and quite another to attempt to pass the buck to the innocent when you do.
Football’s relationship with its customer base has been way out of whack for some time now. Now, finally, we can see that level of that contempt for what it really is.
It must change and it must change now.