European soccer’s governing body said Tuesday that it would refund the tickets of thousands of Liverpool fans who attended last season’s Champions League final outside Paris, the latest effort by the organization to make amends for policing and security failures that nearly saw its showcase game take a deadly turn.
The governing body, UEFA, said it would offer refunds to the fans “most affected” by scenes of dangerous overcrowding outside the gates of the Stade de France last May 28. The affected tickets include the entire ticket allocation provided to Liverpool for sale to its fans — a block of nearly 20,000 tickets — as well as any fans with tickets to specific gates where the worst of the crushes took place.
Last year’s final, the showpiece game of the European soccer season, matched two of the most popular and best-supported teams in the game, Liverpool and Real Madrid. But planning failures led to dangerous scenes in which large crowds of Liverpool fans were herded into narrow areas where, with kickoff approaching and fears in the crowds rising, some were sprayed with tear gas by French riot police.
A French Senate investigation last year faulted the authorities for the chaos, calling it a “fiasco” and raising concerns about French policing before this year’s Rugby World Cup and next summer’s Paris Olympic Games. An investigation by UEFA, released last month, was even more direct: Its harshly critical report concluded it was only “a matter of chance” that no fans had died. That report laid the principle blame on UEFA.
UEFA officials, and French sports officials, have offered previous apologies to Liverpool and its fans for the overcrowding after initially shifting blame for the problems on “late-arriving” fans. (It also first said people who arrived with fake tickets were to blame, though those claimed were later debunked by a check of computer ticketing records.) Liverpool and its fans have taken great offense to those comments; at a recent Champions League game against Real Madrid, the teams’ first meeting on the field since last year’s final, Liverpool fans raised banners critical of UEFA and denouncing France’s sports minister and interior minister as liars.
The UEFA statement announcing the ticket refunds, a tangible and multimillion-dollar effort perhaps aimed at defusing some of those hard feelings, was notable in that it included neither a new apology or any comment from the organization’s president, Aleksander Ceferin. Instead, one of Ceferin’s top deputes thanked Liverpool fans for their input and said the refund plan was an effort “to recognize the negative experiences of those supporters on the day.”
UEFA said refunds would be made available to all fans with tickets for six specific gates of the Stade de France, but also to all fans whom ticketing controls showed did not enter the stadium before the scheduled 9 p.m. kickoff, and to any others who were not able to — or chose not to — enter the stadium at all.
That refunded tickets, UEFA said, included Liverpool’s entire allotment of 19,618, but potentially hundreds, or even thousands, of others held by fans affected by the problems at the match.