France’s interior minister is set to be questioned on the handling of the Champions League final, amid claims he lied about the conduct of Liverpool fans caught up in unrest before the game.
Gérald Darmanin will appear before the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, along with sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, to answer questions about the fiasco that saw Liverpool fans tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed as they waited to enter the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday evening.
Mr Darmanin has blamed the chaos on “fraud on an industrial scale”, saying that 70% of tickets presented were fake.
In an editorial, the Libération newspaper ridiculed his claim that 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans showed up without tickets or with counterfeit tickets.
French media has reported that only 2,800 fake tickets had been scanned.
“If we prefer to believe the explanations of the minister of the interior, it would be more like a detective enigma to make the best classic of Agatha Christie, Gaston Leroux, James Cain or Maurice Leblanc pale in comparison: at security point A, 40,000 Liverpool supporters “without a ticket or with false tickets” were supposedly present,” Dov Alfon wrote in the paper.
“But at security point B, less than 800 meters away, only 2,800 false tickets were scanned.
“Where and how could the 37,200 missing free-riders vanish? Did they disappear off through a secret tunnel under the crypt of the nearby basilica (Maurice Leblanc)?”
He urged ministers to “renounce the state lie, especially when it is quite ridiculous”.
Minister ‘causing dismay across Channel’
An opinion piece published in LeMonde said Mr Darmanin’s “stubborn defence of the police” is “causing dismay across the Channel, which will not fade away any time soon”.
The article, written by academic Olivier Esteves, warned that the minister’s “lie” is reviving memories of the Hillsborough disaster, when Liverpool fans were demonised by The Sun newspaper just days after dozens of supporters had been crushed at the stadium.
Le Figaro said the final “continues to embarrass the executive” and said it was marked by “disastrous initial communication”.
In an analysis article, Guillaume Tabard wrote that the executive’s “long period of inertia” in failing to react had “inevitably focused the attention of public opinion and criticism from the opposition”.
Most opposition parties in France have called for the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
‘A credible number’
But another French outlet, RMC Sport, said the 30,000 to 40,000 figure cited by Mr Darmanin was a “credible extrapolation” based on the 2,800 fake tickets that had been scanned.
The amount scanned was significantly higher than what is typical for this type of event, where a few hundred fakes are detected at most, RMC Sport said.
UEFA and the French football association then deduced that there was a higher volume of fake tickets in circulation, the report said.
Intelligence services had reportedly warned authorities two days before that they were expecting about 50,000 English supporters “who will not be ticket holders”.
“Some of them will be in possession of fake tickets and will try to use them to gain access to the stadium,” a document distributed to police said.