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France Blames Extensive Ticket Fraud for Champions League Fiasco

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The French government blamed ticket fraud on an “industrial scale” for the mayhem that delayed the start of the Champions League final on Saturday and led to police forces firing tear gas at British supporters.

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The match between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid began more than 30 minutes late as many fans of the English team were turned back at turnstiles, creating bottlenecks that prevented some with legitimate tickets from taking their seats for the 9 p.m. kickoff.

Speaking in Paris on Monday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said around 30,000 to 40,000 English supporters without tickets or with fake tickets massed at the Stade de France ahead of the game. A strike on one of the suburban train lines leading to the stadium compounded the situation.

“There was a massive, industrial and organized fraud,” Darmanin said at a press briefing in Paris. “The massive presence of fake tickets is the root that caused the delay in the match.”

The tumult ahead of the finale of Europe’s football season put pressure on President Emmanuel Macron’s government as the country prepares to host the Rugby World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2024.

Marine Le Pen, the nationalist leader defeated in presidential elections last month, called for parliament to investigate and said the country is no longer able to organize major sporting events without them degenerating into chaos.

The UK government also expressed concern. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies said the video footage was “deeply upsetting and disturbing.”

“We know many Liverpool fans traveled to Paris in good time to support their team in one of the biggest matches of the season, and we are hugely disappointed by how they were treated,” Davies said, calling for a full investigation.

Darmanin defended the actions of the French police force, which he said were “proportionate” and helped avoids deaths and injuries. Authorities closed some initial ticket checkpoints to avoid a crush further from the stadium. Around 70% of the tickets presented at those points were fakes, he said.

Still, he said he regretted that children were caught in the tear gas used by the police forces seeking to disperse crowds, and one officer may face a disciplinary procedure.

“It is totally abnormal that this was possible,” Darmanin said.

Speaking alongside the interior minister, Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said some 2,700 fans with legitimate tickets who did not made it into the stadium should be compensated by organizers.

“We express our regret for these people and those who had their experience on Saturday ruined,” she said.

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