Liverpool fans have raised concerns about their treatment by French police and the dangerous overcrowding that ensued before the Champions League final on Saturday night in Paris.
Three Liverpool supporters who were at the match share their experiences of being caught up in the chaos outside the Stade de France.
‘I was not in control of when I moved, I was being moved along by the pressure of fans from behind me’
We travelled to the game via the RER train service and disembarked at the La Plaine Stade de France station at approximately 6.45pm local time, more than two hours before the scheduled kick-off time of 9pm. Road signs indicated it was a 15-minute walk. As we approached the motorway which runs adjacent to the stadium, police funnelled us into an underpass beside the road.
This underpass was approximately 10 metres wide with police vehicles lined up along the way, meaning the gap afforded to the fans was half as wide as it should’ve been. Very soon after it became extremely crowded. The police had initially stopped fans walking on the road but some climbed over a waist-high fence to get back on as it was becoming extremely crowded. My two friends and I did this also.
We walked for approximately 100 metres down the road and noticed that in order to get through the necessary security check for the stadium you had to be on the underpass. We therefore moved back on to the underpass. At this section of the road there was no police presence. This is when things began to get uncomfortable as it was no longer just a crowded space. The only way I can describe this is: I was not in control of when I moved, I was being moved along by the pressure of fans from behind me. There were also hundreds of local youths among the crowd.
The initial security check was situated at the bottom of a small ramp up towards the stadium. By the time I reached this point the check had been removed. As you eventually made it on to the ramp the overcrowding subsided and you were then able to walk towards the stadium freely. Glenn Murray, 31, civil servant, Newcastle upon Tyne
‘The whole thing from start to finish was horrendous’
We’re hospitality season ticket holders and within our group of nine, we get our official tickets through the club, so we knew 100% that there was nothing wrong with our tickets. When we joined the back of the queue – where the first security check was – it was just an absolute nightmare.
We knew there was a problem because within 30 seconds we were all split up, because there were just too many people being pushed in the same direction. At the point where we came up and under the tunnel, there was a family of tourists who had come off at the metro station and had just taken the wrong turn, so were pushed into this area – I’m going to call it a pen because that’s literally what it was.
They were pushed under the tunnels and they were never meant to be there. At that point we were saying to the police: ‘These guys are not meant to be here, let them out. Move the fence out of the way just a little bit. Let them out now.” And they said no, they’ve got to stay in. This couple were a husband, wife, young kid, maybe 12 to 18 months old and a three- or four-year-old daughter as well. It was just horrendous. The whole thing from start to finish was horrendous.
We managed to get them to the point of an exit or what looked like an exit. The young family got to the front and said: “We haven’t got tickets,” and they were told: “You’ve got to walk all the way back.” And I’m trying to explain that they’ve had to walk the whole way with us because they’re not allowed back out. Now they’ve got to walk back.
I’ve no idea what happened with his family but my assumption is they somehow managed to get out. But that first checkpoint was just absolutely horrific. By the time we got to the front of that, the so-called security checks – there were none, literally none. Sunil Mehan, 40, financial adviser, Doncaster
‘We were directly against the fence and my daughter started to cry’
I was at the turnstiles in front of the stadium at about eight o’clock with my daughter, who’s 19 and my son, who is 16. We could see people going through, ticket checks being done. The stories of masses of people with fakes being turned around and the problem being at the turnstiles – that’s not, not, not what we saw. In the whole time I was there, two teenage lads – who I think were Parisians but I can’t be certain – had been turned around because they had fake tickets and the Liverpool fans were saying: ‘What are you doing? They’re obviously fake. They look like photocopies.’
At that point, the stewards at the turnstiles started to say: “We need to close the gates, we need to close the gates, move back” – and people were shouting: “If they close the gates we’re never getting in”. So there was a sense that this was problematic. Nonetheless they forced the gate towards my son, because it opened outwards towards us, and he was in front of me and got caught in front of the gate. And as much as I tried to grab hold of him, he got pushed forward with the gate so he ended up inside and I ended up outside against the gate with my daughter.
I was really worried about my son being in and me still being outside the ground. But you know what, what followed, I was actually grateful for the fact that he was safe inside. Despite the fact that at five past eight they’d said they would reopen the gates in five minutes. They didn’t talk to us. They didn’t communicate with us. We were shouting at them to come over and tell us what was going on. I tried to call a police officer over to say my son was inside. They just ignored us.
I think it was about seven or maybe 10 minutes before kick-off was originally due, the crowd could hear You’ll Never Walk Alone from outside and I think thatstarted a surge of the crowd who were frustrated. At this point there were double-digit thousands behind us that we could see. We felt the crowd surge at that point and we were directly against the fence – my daughter started to cry at that point because she was being pressed hard against the fence. I was pushed against the fence next to her, there’s nothing more harrowing than being a father and not being able to do anything to alleviate the pain that your child is obviously in.
I would say probably after one or two minutes of that extreme pressure of her crying, the gate burst open, I guess from the sheer weight of the crowd. We were against the fence about two feet to the left of where the gate was. So I just forced her by the arm into the gate so she fell through, basically to get her away from the pressure against the fence. I just held her and to be honest both of us just sobbed.
My son came over as he’d seen us come in, then we all watched as armed police closed the gates and just stood in front of the fans who were still outside the fence. Paul Staples, director of operations at Liverpool John Lennon airport