Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Calm down, Calm down

Liverpool fan and architect Paul Gregory, along with two friends, spent nearly £2,500 on flights, accommodation and tickets to see the Champions League Final 2007. As we know, many fans holding genuine tickets were refused entry to the ground whilst many with forged or no tickets got in to see the game.

Paul has since written to UEFA president Michel Platini seeking compensation. His letter makes interesting reading :

"I would like this to be reimbursed by Uefa. It's the least you can do for putting our lives at risk. If this is not forthcoming we intend to take action against Uefa through the British judicial system, and through the European Courts if necessary. It was only through good luck that Uefa avoided deaths.

"As a former shareholder in Liverpool FC I am the recipient of three €140 tickets for the Champions League final. All are still unused as we were refused entry into the stadium. I was herded, tear-gassed, kicked and baton-charged by riot police outside the stadium for the hour leading up to kick-off and way beyond.

"As the organising body, Uefa has a duty of care towards its legitimate ticket-holders in just the same way as any corporate body has towards its customers. This duty of care extends to having systems in place to deny entry to the stadium to non-ticket holders. Demonstrably these systems were not in place.

"While unsavoury elements of the Liverpool fans must take responsibility for their actions, so must Uefa take responsibility for its shortcomings. Uefa appears to have planned for a genteel corporate networking event. It took its eye off the ball and forgot about a football match between two of Europe's largest and most passionately supported football clubs, despite warnings weeks ahead forged tickets were likely to be in circulation.

"Not only did thousands gain entry to the stadium with amateurish, photo-copied forgeries (some not even bothering to print the reverse side of the ticket!) but, incredibly, some fans simply walked into the stadium with no ticket at all - forged or legitimate! Others waved a stadium map and gained entry. One fan gained entry to the press box with a photo-copied press pass.''

His journal of what happened that night makes interesting reading too :

"I can't even be accused of naivety as this was my sixth European Cup final and I arrived at the stadium an hour and a half before kick-off. Plenty of time to negotiate 'security', I thought.

"8.15pm: Arrived at stadium complex entrance arch. Everyone relaxed. Fans funnelled by railings into several entry points. It became apparent fairly quickly very few people were being let through. It also became apparent this was a holding operation.

"8.45: Crushing begins as fans see little progress. Panic beginning. Children lifted up and crying. Pushing from behind. Police respond by pushing back and forming an impenetrable barrier.

"9.00: I finally make it to the front. Extruded like toothpaste out of a tube into police line; 100m further on, a line of police buses with a bus-sized gap and riot police blocking it. Fans backing up here. It becomes apparent this is a similar holding operation. It looks like one or two are allowed through at a time to give the appearance of a checkpoint. Totally inadequate again. We hold up our tickets, to no avail.

"9.30: No one is getting through now. Police drive a bus in to close gap off completely. Crowd of 2,000-5,000 backing up. Panic, crushing. My feet aren't touching the ground. Kids crying. Pressure increases to dangerous levels. This prompts police to let crowd know over hand-held Tannoy that 'the stadium is full! You can't get in'. No one can believe it. The charade is over. The crowd realise they haven't been policed; they've been conned, corralled, herded and contained for the last hour. A surge from the back and now it's confrontational. The police get more vocal and counter-surge with shields, batons, helmets, visors and boots, pushing us back a few metres.

"The police fire a huge cloud of tear gas and panic ensues. Police batter their way forward. Crowd retreats, choking and eyes streaming.

"9.45: We assume the match will not kick off. Surprised to find it has.

"10.00: Some fans regroup and storm staircases to our right. Running skirmishes. Beaten back by police. Tear gas again, kickings. Some fans try to crawl under parked buses. This goes on until about 10.30. We make our way back.''

Paul concludes by asking Platini :

"1) At what time was the stadium declared closed? And by whom?
2) What security arrangements did you have in place, particularly in regard to forged tickets that Uefa had been warned about weeks in advance?
3) Why are corporate 'partners' allowed to sell tickets at hugely inflated rates to fans?'

Finally, if you want a solution to this perennial problem the answer (apart from security that actually works) is easy: license clubs to show the match live on screens at their home stadium when the live venue is sold out.''

Paul Gregory states his case very well, and although you suspect he won't get anywhere with his case, you do hope he is ultimately successful.

If he does succeed, Platini can expect a flood of compensation letters heading his way.


Chris O said...

Excellent article, Smart.

I'd obviously heard about the crowd trouble outside the stadium on the night, but I had no idea that things had gone so awry.

Well done to Paul Gregory for making his point so graphically and assertively. I hope he succeeds in changing things for future high-profile football matches.

Chris (B Squad) said...

This will be the litmus test as to whether Platini truely cares about football as he claims, or is just another lying thief. I doubt any compensation will be given, but if nothing else UEFA need to seriously reflect upon the chaotic state of their events rather than the gate receipts and TV revenues.

Stadium officals are undermanned and underqualified. The police are corrupt and begging for an excuse to use excessive force on a captive crowd. Well done UEFA. Why don't you admit a few thousand more fans who drew their tickets with crayons and a cocktail napkin and then call it a day.


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