The Champions League final kick-off at the Stade de France was delayed by 36 minutes after painfully slow security checks caused a major bottleneck and widespread concern among fans trying to access the stadium from a ramp that led up to gate U on the west side of the ground.
There was an eye-witness report by a member of Liverpool club staff who tweeted that supporters who had been locked outside were teargassed. The journalist Andy Kelly, who works for Liverpool, tweeted: “Fans queuing outside with tickets for a gate that’s been shut for no reason just been tear gassed. Thoroughly unpleasant experience and so dangerous. This isn’t how fans should be treated in a civilised society. Unacceptable.”
The announcement was made to supporters inside the stadium with just 15 minutes to go before the game was due to kick off at 9.0pm French time. At first UEFA announced on the stadium screens that the delay was because of “the late arrival of fans”. In a subsequent statement UEFA said that the delay was for “security reasons”.
The police had set up blocks with their vans on the approach to the ramp which ran under the A1 motorway, that passes the stadium on its west side, to try to slow the flow of fans up to checks on tickets and bags. However, two-and-a-half hours before kick-off, when reporters from the Telegraph arrived, the checks had slowed to allow just a trickle of fans through and hundreds of fans were jammed together in a tight space.
There was confusion as groups were split up by the tightness of the crowd. The occasional fan without a ticket was pushed back into the crowd by security guards who were increasingly worried that they might lose control, causing more pressure on those waiting. The crowd stayed calm. It was made up of a majority of Liverpool fans but also many from Real Madrid and some neutrals. There was dismay at the upset caused to children who were stuck in the bottleneck.
Some said that they had encountered problems getting into the stadium before — even for Six Nations matches. Travel from central Paris to the stadium in the north of the city was not helped by industrial action that affected the service on the RER B line that runs to one of the two main stations that serves the stadium, La Plaine. It meant that many fans took the train to the alternative station, St Denis on the RER D line.
The French football federation agreed to host the game in late February when UEFA moved it from its original venue, St Petersburg, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Andy Kelly had said in an earlier tweet: “Absolutely dreadful organisation at Stade de France. Here two and a half hours early, 1000s still outside. Police herded fans into dangerous bottleneck in underpass. Now gates shut with fans with tickets all stuck outside. Disgrace Uefa.”
The broadcaster Kelly Cates, whose father is Kenny Dalglish, tweeted: “Absolutely shambolic at the Stade de France. No way in, no way of knowing which way to go. Stay safe if you’re heading in. It has the potential to be very dangerous.”
The former Liverpool chief executive, Peter Moore, described the scenes outside the Stade de France as “disgraceful”. He dismissed UEFA claims that the delay to the kick-off was down to the late arrival of fans and said it was the consequence of “horrendous organisation”.
The Daily Telegraph’s chief football correspondent Jason Burt was also caught up in the unpleasant scenes around the stadium’s perimeter: “Just taking my seat back in the press box having witnessed hundreds of Liverpool fans being treated appallingly outside the Stade de France. Was caught in the pepper spray. Eyes and mouth still stinging.”
Supporter Colm Lacey saw “children crying, people trapped” outside the entrances.
“People started jumping the queue, then they ripped the gate open and then there was a push,” Lacey said.