Liverpool urges UEFA to ensure fans are safe at matches

Liverpool urged European soccer’s governing body to ensure supporter safety is the top priority at matches after a report detailed how a “mass fatality catastrophe” was only narrowly avoided at last year’s Champions League final involving the English team.

Liverpool said it welcomed the findings of an investigation panel which exonerated the club’s fans from any blame amid chaotic scenes that saw tens of thousands of supporters — including elderly people and kids — held in increasingly crushed lines for hours before biggest match in European soccer, which was held at the 75,000-capacity Stade de France.

UEFA had initially blamed Liverpool fans, some of whom were fired on by tear gas by police, for arriving at the stadium late and using fake tickets to try to gain entry.

Ultimately, the report found UEFA should bear “primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster,” which — for many Liverpool fans — had chilling echoes of the tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989 that led to the death of 97 supporters of the club. Security issues also marred the UEFA-run European Championship final at Wembley Stadium 10 months ago.

“We call on UEFA and others at the top of the football regulation pyramid to come together and take positive and transparent action to ensure there are no more ‘near misses,’” Liverpool said.

“We implore UEFA to fully enact the recommendations as outlined by the panel — no matter how difficult — to ensure supporter safety is the number one priority at the heart of every UEFA football fixture.”

Liverpool said it was “shocking” that its fans were subject to such “fundamental safety failings which have had such a devastating impact on so many,” particularly in light of what happened at Hillsborough.

“Paris has only exacerbated their suffering,” the club said.

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said the publishing of the panel’s findings marked “the end of the beginning” of the changes needed to be carried by authorities.

“This is where the hard work really needs to start now,” he said. “Again, the sense of pride that we have from the behavior of our supporters — the fact that it wasn’t (a) disaster, which is really down to the behavior of our supporters around the match itself — but now we need to look at how we make sure that nothing like this happens again.”

UEFA has pledged to launch a special refund scheme for fans, and a law firm representing more than 600 Liverpool supporters injured or traumatized by the events at the Stade de France said Tuesday it is pushing forward with a legal claim against the governing body.

Leigh Day said it is making the claim on the basis that UEFA “failed to ensure a safe and secure environment for those attending and could owe a legal liability to those who suffered physical and/or psychological injuries.”

Spirit of Shankly, a Liverpool supporters’ group, also welcomed the panel’s findings that the club’s fans were not responsible for the chaos.

“A breakdown in communication on the day, the failures of UEFA, the French police and authorities were to blame,” the group said. “The shame — beginning with the stadium billboard announcing kickoff was delayed due to fans arriving late, supporters being tear gassed and pepper sprayed, pickpocketed and attacked, people frightened they were going to die — is on them.”


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