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Leagues: UEFA Champions League

French interior minister accused of lying over Champions League chaos


Paris (AFP) – French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin came under pressure on Wednesday over the chaos that marred the Champions League final at the weekend between Liverpool and Real Madrid which he has blamed on ticket scams.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen accused him of lying and said he should resign after he defended the French police and blamed ticket counterfeiting, disorganised supporters and unruly behaviour by English fans for the crushes.

“The facts are extremely serious and the lie by the minister is extremely serious,” Le Pen told France 2 television.

“In any other democracy, faced with such a fiasco, with chaos that occured in front of 400 million people watching on television, which offered a dreadful image of France, then he should consider himself that he should resign,” she added.

Darmanin gave a televised press conference on Monday, two days after the final which was delayed because thousands of Liverpool supporters were unable to enter the stadium, many of them suffering teargas, pepper spray and crushes on the way in.

The 39-year-old blamed “massive, industrial-scale and organised fraud in fake tickets” and said that 30,000 to 40,000 Liverpool fans had turned up at the stadium either without tickets or with counterfeited tickets.

He also claimed that at some check-points outside the Stade de France as many as 70 percent of tickets were found to be fraudulent by staff.

– ‘Wholly disrespectful’ –

But sources within UEFA and the French football federation told AFP on Tuesday that only 2,800 fake tickets were detected at the final, suggesting the problem was more about managing flows of ticketless fans around the stadium.

Darmanin is a pugnacious rightwinger from northern France who was recently extended in his role as interior minister by President Emmanuel Macron following presidential elections in April.

Liverpool have asked for an apology from French authorities for the treatment of their fans, while the chairman of the club has condemned separate comments from French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera.

Oudea-Castera initially blamed Liverpool for failing to properly organise its supporters who travelled to Paris.

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner called the statement “irresponsible, unprofessional, and wholly disrespectful” in a letter leaked to the local Liverpool Echo newspaper on Tuesday.

Darmanin and Oudea-Castera are expected later to appear before a Senate commission where they will face questions about security at the game which tarnished France’s image ahead of the rugby World Cup next year and the Paris Olympics in 2024.

“What we expect is clarity and, I almost want to say, honesty,” the head of the Senate commission, François-Noel Buffet, told Franceinfo radio.

On the number of counterfeited tickets, “we need to know what the truth is. The two ministers need to say on what they are basing their statements on,” added Buffet, who is from the opposition Republicans party.

“If this fraud was massive and genuinely true and real, there’s an issue, but if it’s not the truth, then there’s another subject which is about trust in public statements and the real understanding of the ministers in charge of this area,” he added. 

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