London (AFP) – Liverpool chairman Tom Werner has demanded an apology from French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera over the treatment of the club’s fans at Saturday’s Champions League final in Paris.
Werner, part of the US-based Fenway Sports Group that owns Liverpool, said in a leaked letter sent to the minister on Monday that he was left in “utter disbelief” at her comments about the chaos.
Oudea-Castera initially blamed Liverpool for helping to cause the mayhem, telling a French radio station that the club failed to properly organise its supporters who went to Paris.
The French government has also claimed “massive” ticket fraud contributed to the chaotic scenes that marred the match with Real Madrid.
The images have tarnished the reputation of the French capital, raising questions about its ability to host major sporting events as it gears up for the 2024 Olympics, as well as the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“I am writing to you today out of utter disbelief that a minister of the French government… could make a series of unproven pronouncements on a matter of such significance before a proper, formal, independent investigation process has even taken place,” Werner wrote in his letter, leaked to the local Liverpool Echo newspaper.
“Your comments were irresponsible, unprofessional, and wholly disrespectful to the thousands of fans harmed physically and emotionally,” the Boston-based chairman added.
“On behalf of all the fans who experienced this nightmare I demand an apology from you, and assurance that the French Authorities and UEFA allow an independent and transparent investigation to proceed.”
– Feedback –
UEFA, European football’s governing body, announced later Monday it was opening an “independent report” into the problems at the final that would “examine decision making, responsibility and behaviours of all entities involved”.
The organisation said it has appointed Portuguese politician Tiago Brandao Rodrigues to oversee the report on a pro bono basis on the completion of which they will decide upon a course of action.
Liverpool is asking its supporters who attended the game to complete a feedback form in order to support an investigation, the club said on its website.
Numerous first-hand accounts of the chaos have emerged from fans, which inevitably brought back painful memories of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which police crowd control failings led to the deaths of 97 people in a stadium crush.
Then, as at the weekend, police initially blamed ticketless fans but they were exonerated after a lengthy legal fight.
In his letter, Werner called the events in Paris “incredibly dangerous for all who attended” and urged against “a blame game strategy via press conference”.
“I have received countless emails from Liverpool supporters who were frightened to death, and subject to police harassment, pepper spray and tear gas,” he added.
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