The British sports minister is to meet his French counterpart this week to discuss the chaos at the Stade de France, after one MP described the scenes in Paris as the “most hostile environment” they had seen at a sporting event.
Nigel Huddleston said he could meet Amélie Oudéa-Castéra as early as Tuesday to raise issues surrounding the events which led to thousands of Liverpool fans being kettled for hours and individuals being assaulted, robbed and hit with teargas before the Champions League final.
“What should have been a celebration of the pinnacle of European football will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and I am shocked and concerned by what has come to light,” Huddleston told the House of Commons. “I welcome the fact that UEFA have commissioned an investigation and issued an apology. The French sports minister has also commissioned a review of the delivery of the event and I will be discussing this with her later this week.”
Huddleston said he would raise “many points” with Oudéa-Castera, who has been the subject of intense criticism from abroad and domestically after she alleged a “mass gathering” of Liverpool fans with “fake tickets” had been responsible for the heavy-handed behavior of police and stadium officials.
“The immediate response from certain people was unfortunate,” Huddleston told fellow MPs. “There seemed to be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction that was not necessarily based on the facts. Of course, what we have all seen is what appears to be considerably disproportionate behavior on behalf of some people and entities of which we would expect more.”
The sports minister was responding to an urgent question put by Ian Byrne, the Labor MP for the Liverpool suburb of West Derby. Byrne, a Liverpool fan and Hillsborough survivor, relayed his experience in St Denis before the final and called for action to stop similar from happening again.
“I was there last Saturday in Paris, I was also there at Hillsborough in 1989,” Byrne said. “I can say, without any shadow of doubt, that if it was not for the magnificent efforts of the Liverpool supporters last Saturday, we could have had a disaster worse than Hillsborough.
“Last Saturday in Paris, I witnessed first hand shambolic stadium management and the most hostile policing environment at a sporting event I have ever seen. I watched children getting pepper-sprayed, pensioners getting teargassed, and turnstiles and exits shut while thousands queued for hours waiting to attend the blue riband football occasion of the season. We were treated like animals for wanting to watch a game of football.
“Then, shamefully, the smears and lies, straight from the Hillsborough playbook, were used by the authorities to avoid accountability for the horrific events. Never, ever again should this be tolerated, in this country or around the globe. Enough is enough.”