No apology for UEFA echoing Hillsborough in instantly blaming Liverpool fans | UEFA
JTwo days after the horrors of pariswhere UEFA displayed a shocking ignorance of the lessons learned from Hillsborough and other football disasters, Liverpool were already facing another: beware of the ‘independent investigation’.
Portuguese MP Tiago Brandão Rodrigues may have the sternest independent spirit, but UEFA appointed him to lead the throwback to the Champions League fiasco and UEFA itself is at the center of the necessary investigation.
The build-up of disasters by police and organizers in the dystopian, tear gas approach to the French national stadium was mostly identified quickly, by supporters with video evidence, the coordination group European Football Fans and excellent reports from sports journalists on the match. As so often, the causes of the chaos can be devastatingly simple: the police had no practical system to check valid tickets any distance from the turnstiles and instead held thousands of people in a ridiculous bottleneck for some time. , before giving up completely. There were then breakdowns and closures at the turnstiles resulting in more huge static queues, clearly made worse by some groups of local guys trying to get in.
The over-tooled police have been filmed gassing innocent people, young and old, sometimes with an air of bored disdain, so even French ministers don’t deny it. The only real point of contention that remains, although highly toxic, is the proportion of turnstile clogging caused by counterfeit notes. The ministers’ assertions that there was 70%, or 30-40,000, Liverpool fans with fake tickets or without tickets, looking ridiculous – where, physically, were all those tens of thousands of people? – but there will have been, a routine problem to be dealt with in any major game. But many Liverpool supporters said that their tickets, bought at a high price or even, as Andy Robertson saidofficially issued to VIPs, did not scan at turnstiles.
But any proper investigation will also have to ask how and why, in the midst of all this danger, UEFA released two announcements, one on the big screen for all to see, instantly blaming liverpool supporters. It was an unmistakable echo of the police cover-up on the spot at Hillsborough and it was truly shocking to see European football’s governing body set to issue an instant verdict.
The credibility of the first announcement – late arrival from the fans – did not last a minute, with thousands protesting immediately after being held outside for hours. Yet UEFA launched a second after the match ended, the accusation that “thousands” of Liverpool supporters had counterfeit notes, which instinctively seemed wacky – and, clearly, yet to be established.
These same fans who had been immediately charged faced what for many was the worst of a terrible event: a nightmarish march to train stations, where they were violently attacked and robbed.
Some at Aleksander Ceferin’s UEFA slick may bridle the comparison with the Lies accusing fans of South Yorkshire Police in 1989, but that would only show more ignorance. The stories in UEFA’s statements were the same as in Hillsborough: Liverpool fans running late and ticketless. The bereaved families of 97 people unlawfully killed in that FA Cup semi-final have been forced to fight for decades to refute easy but toxic victim blame. It took them 27 years before 2016 inquest jury totally dismissed police liesand concluded that the cause of the disaster was grossly negligent police mismanagement of the showpiece football game.
UEFA’s reckless announcements have caused a toxic torrent on social media that has once again shown how persistent the police’s original lies are for people whose support for football is expressed in damaging hatred of rivals. It seemed Saturday night there was no line of respect left that some wouldn’t cross, as even the bereaved family members were trolled and insulted.
This is the legacy of the trauma suffered by thousands of Liverpool fans at every football match they attend. Indeed, with young people excluded by the price of UEFA 2022 tickets, many in Paris were Hillsborough survivors, now in his 50s and 60s. There is simply no excuse for UEFA to be so ignorant of this.
As French ministers dug into their unlikely case, it also became clear that British football fans are not helped at all by Brexit, another British outcome fueled by toxic lies on social media. Those who pushed for Britain to leave the EU apparently barely thought that, forever, Britons will continue to travel, vacation and watch football in Europe. Some misfortunes will always happen and in these circumstances the British now lack equal rights and a government with a seat around the table.
The rest of Europe sees Britons in separate queues and Boris Johnson’s government is engaged in escalating fights with France over migrant crossings or mussel fishing. Just as French bashing seems to play well with a particular mentality in Britain, the French government apparently finds it more agreeable to blame Liverpool fans than to deal with the brutality of its own police force.
A fundamental lesson of Hillsborough, and any other public calamity, is to wait until the facts can be established, not to make a snap judgment blaming the victims. The fact that UEFA were so ignorant of this principle and so oblivious to Liverpool’s sensibilities became part of the horror of the night.
A real independent investigation is needed to collect evidence: on the catastrophic organization of the UEFA grand final and the claims of the authorities to pass their responsibility – including the announcements of UEFA. This is why a certain caution may be in order, before relying on an investigation that UEFA itself has set up.
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