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Champions League Final: Amid accounts of ‘appalling’ and ‘brutal’ treatment of fans, lawmakers call for answers

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CNN
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There is a blame game going on after the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, with differing positions adopted by lawmakers in the UK and France amid allegations of “appalling” and “brutal” treatment of fans.

The match was delayed by 35 minutes after Liverpool fans struggled to enter the Stade de France and tear gas was used by French police towards supporters held in tightly packed areas.

On Monday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said counterfeit tickets were to blame for the delay, saying there was “a massive, industrial and organized fraud of fake tickets” and that “30,000 to 40,000 English fans … found themselves at the Stade de France either without a ticket or with falsified tickets.”

UEFA, the governing body of European football, also said the buildup of fans at turnstiles was caused by fake tickets.

Those figures have been disputed, while UK lawmaker Ian Byrne said attributing crowds and delays to fake tickets was “utter nonsense” and an attempt from French authorities and UEFA to cover their backs.

Liverpool fans are held at the gates -- with many feeling the effects of tear gas -- ahead of the Champions League final.

There has been widespread criticism towards the treatment of fans at the hands of the French authorities deployed for the game.

Photos and videos circulated on social media show Liverpool supporters crammed into fenced areas and tear gas used by police.

Byrne, a UK Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby who says he was at the match as a Liverpool fan, described the situation outside the stadium as “one of the most horrendous experiences of my life.”

“I have honestly never witnessed such a hostile environment for a football match. It was truly horrific,” he wrote in a letter calling for the UK government to press for a formal investigation into the events outside the Stade de France on Saturday.

“Many elderly people, children, disabled people, asthma sufferers and families out for a day to remember were among those pepper sprayed,” he added.

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson also called for the UK government to take action and said she was “disgusted by appalling management & brutal treatment” of Liverpool fans, while the club has also called for a formal investigation into what it called “unacceptable issues” faced by fans.

On Monday, the spokesman to Boris Johnson said the UK Prime Minister is “hugely disappointed” by the way fans were treated and described footage from outside the stadium as “deeply upsetting and disturbing,” according to PA media.

Police officers guard the Stade de France prior to Saturday's Champions League final.

Real Madrid won Saturday’s final 1-0 to claim the club’s 14th European title.

As confusion spread ahead of kickoff, videos emerged on social media of people – with no clear affiliation to a team – scaling fences around the stadium and running into the ground.

Stuart Fraser, a Liverpool fan who traveled to Paris for the game, said there was “pushing and shoving” in queues with “no information” from authorities on how to get into the stadium.

“It got really, really tight, people started panicking, there were kids, there were old people, it was crushing,” he told beIN Sports, adding that fans were “polite” and “calm” while waiting to get into the ground.

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson also said that crowd management around the final had “not been well organized.”

The Scotland international told Sky Sports that one of his friends had been accused by security of having a fake ticket, even though that ticket had been sourced by Robertson himself through the club.

Merseyside Police, who attended the game in an observatory and advisory capacity, said “the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed.”

Later on Monday, UEFA said it had commissioned an independent review into the events outside the Stade de France before, during, and after Saturday’s Champions League final.

“The comprehensive review will examine decision making, responsibility and behaviors of all entities involved in the final,” said UEFA.

“Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed and upon receipt of the findings, UEFA will evaluate the next steps.”

UEFA added that Dr. Tiago Brandao Rodrigues – a member of the Portuguese Parliament and the President of the Parliamentary Committee of Environment and Energy – would conduct the investigation “on a pro bono basis” to “guarantee his independent status in the process.”



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