UFC Fight Night - Tsarukyan vs GamrotJun 26 LIVE
Crowd issues under spotlight as Liverpool lose out in Champions League final
Organisational chaos led to hundreds of fans missing the kick-off as, with huge queues building outside.
The last time Liverpool and Real Madrid met in the Champions League final in 2018, the acrimony was on the pitch as Sergio Ramos’ robust challenge on Mohamed Salah prematurely ended his night through injury.
But four years on, serious issues off it meant the anger was directed at UEFA and the French police as the organisation of European football’s showpiece event barely met the standard of being fit for purpose.
Problems were expected on the turf, which was newly laid just two days before the final, but the real – and seriously worrying – concerns were away from the pitch.
Organisational chaos led to hundreds of fans missing the kick-off as, with huge queues building outside, French police locked one of the main gates at the Liverpool end and then pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed supporters, including children and the disabled, pressed up against the fence with nowhere to go.
It was a concerning image for anyone, but for a club with Liverpool’s tragic history at Hillsborough there were understandably many people traumatised by the situation.
Frustration had been brewing for a couple of hours as the tactic of herding the majority of Reds supporters through an underpass partially strategically-blocked by police vehicles only added to the delay in getting to the ground.
That did lead to a handful of people either climbing the fence or running through gates in an attempt to get inside, but not all were travelling fans and some appeared to be locals chancing their arm.
It prompted law enforcement to shut down the entrance for more than 45 minutes and one former Liverpool player inside the gate had his phone glued to his ear for over an hour as he spoke to his tearful son stuck in the scary situation outside.
Liverpool fans outnumbered Real’s by at least three to one inside the stadium, and probably twice that in the French capital, but UEFA and the local authorities would have known that would be the case.
And while the final was only switched to this venue from St Petersburg after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, there was still ample time for adequate arrangements to be made at the Stade de France, which has held a World Cup final.
Many fans were so concerned they turned around and left. Others were still waiting to get in at half-time.
It will have been absolutely no consolation for them to learn they did not miss much: Liverpool had a few half-chances while Real had a goal disallowed for offside.
Just before the hour Vinicius Jr turned home Federico Valverde’s driven cross. Jurgen Klopp turned away and prowled around his technical area, former Real Madrid star and manager Zinedine Zidane watched impassively from under his hoodie.
What subsequently transpired was virtually a head-to-head between Thibaut Courtois and Mohamed Salah. And the Real Madrid goalkeeper came out on top.
Liverpool’s 63rd and final match of the season was just one game too far.
But the ramifications of what transpired outside the Stade de France are likely to rumble on for some time, with the club rightly requesting a formal investigation at the shameful scenes, furious their security concerns were not heeded and that UEFA blamed the late arrival of fans for a kick-off delayed by 36 minutes.