He carefully keeps an eye on his notes, occasionally staring at the camera that is broadcasting his speech. UEFA, through the voice of its director general in charge of events Martin Kallen, in turn spoke about the fiasco of the Champions League final at the Stade de France in front of the senators on Tuesday morning. A long story, where the European body retraced what led to attributing the event to France and unfolded its vision of the chronology of events which led to the numerous incidents in Saint-Denis.
The genesis of the awarding of the final to France
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, UEFA immediately began looking for a stadium other than St Petersburg to host the Champions League final three months later. . With several criteria to take into account: “a stadium with a capacity of at least 70,000 seats, free on May 28 and the previous week, an easily accessible city with a large accommodation capacity, and a country with from the experience of organizing these events”, explains Martin Kallen. Wembley, London, was UEFA’s ‘ideal’ choice, but the UK venue was unavailable.
“Based on these criteria, Paris was the ideal choice, the Stade de France was the ideal choice”, insists the leader. The latter said that on February 24, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin called the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron to inform him of this option and ask for his agreement. The Head of State affirms that “the French State will support this event”. The next morning, still according to UEFA’s chronology, it was the turn of the French Football Federation to be called upon before an extraordinary UEFA executive committee. Again, she would have said that she was ready to take charge of the heavy organization of this event.
“Usually, it takes 36 months,” admits Martin Kallen, a period during which inspection visits and work meetings are scheduled. There, the FFF, co-organizer of this C1 final, had to comply with a special and shortened procedure. A constraint already recalled by the federation during its hearing before the senators on June 9.
“Ticketless supporters” again singled out
If UEFA deleted its statement published in the wake of the Champions League final where it accused Liverpool supporters with fake tickets of being behind the delay in the kick-off of the clash between the Reds and Real Madrid, she did not set aside this critical version of fan behavior. During his videoconference hearing, Martin Kallen assured that “most of the supporters inside the coaches did not have a ticket for the match”.
The general director of UEFA events affirmed, like the French authorities and the FFF, that the pre-filtering system around the enclosure of Saint-Denis had detected a significant presence of supporters without tickets or with scythes. This would have led the stewards to wonder about the proper functioning of the chemical pens, supposed to sort the authentic sesames from the copies. “The number of counterfeit tickets in Paris was higher than those observed in other Champions League finals,” he said, citing the figure of around 1,600 counterfeits detected in the next stage of checks, stadium access turnstiles. “We do not believe that it was the figure mentioned after the first days in France, more or less 30,000 to 40,000”, he argued, dismantling the figures put forward by the prefect of police Didier Lallement as well as by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.
“We have received information that 30,000 people have resumed transport to Paris at halftime,” he insisted, as if to validate the hypothesis of a large departure of free riders to the capital. The figure raises questions, since no counting was officially carried out at this time of the evening by the SNCF, in charge of the RER B and D, as well as the RATP, which manages line 13 of the metro. An unquantified “influx of travelers” was recorded in the 58th minute of the meeting on the RER B platforms, while 20,000 people took the metro after the meeting.
To remedy the problems pointed out, UEFA said it wanted to switch to digital format for almost all tickets for the next Champions League final, a format more difficult to falsify than paper in its eyes. Liverpool had notably requested that the 20,000 tickets for its supporters be in paper version. But Martin Kallen acknowledged that this potential influx of counterfeit tickets was not the only factor leading to the fiasco, pointing to “local bands wandering in front of the stadium”, as well as “problems in public transport”.
Flow management still questioned
Like the FFF, UEFA mentioned a problem in the management of the flow of supporters towards the stadium. “It took everyone by surprise,” said Martin Kallen, referring to the large transfer of travelers expected on the RER B, affected by a strike, to the RER D. The UEFA official said that the plans of transport had been worked out upstream around this hypothesis.
However, the strike on the RER B was known, “and its consequences on the orientation of flows too”, describes the report of the interministerial delegate to the Olympic Games and major events, Michel Cadot. The document detailed that the signage encouraging travelers arriving by RER D to head towards the wider B access had been dismantled on the orders of the police headquarters.
Second point, the question of the double ticket control system, imposed by UEFA where the FFF usually only controls tickets at the stadium access turnstiles. According to the Cadot report, this dual device would have led to congestion of access to the Stade de France from the RER D. “The principle was not to have spectators without tickets or with counterfeits in front of the gates”, said justified Martin Kallen. A choice made because of the configuration of the Stade de France and its turnstiles which lead directly to the stands, according to the leader of the European body.
Conclusions expected in September for the investigation
Asked about the independent investigation commissioned by UEFA to former Sports Minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Martin Kallen reaffirmed that all stakeholders would be heard as part of the investigations, which are due to begin this week. If he did not wish to mention a specific deadline at first, the Swiss leader explained that the process would take “at least three months”. The conclusions of this investigation would then be known in September.