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The Internazionale unite the human race

Another Saturday, another final featuring Manchester City. Ugh. The summer can only get better from here. I hope. That relocation to Tonga is looking more and more appealing.

Some things are bigger than football rivalries, though, and the main thing I’m hoping for is that today’s match isn’t the catastrophic shitshow that last year’s final was. I remember my heart sinking when it was announced that the kick off in Paris was delayed due to ‘the late arrival of fans’. I’ve heard that line before.

Once again, it turned out the authorities had fucked up, put lives at risk, then tried to cover their negligent arses and blame football fans. Liverpool supporters were blamed for turning up late and without tickets, again. And again, it was a lie.

Police vans that were parked under an underpass near the Stade de France blocked the main route to the stadium that 20000 Liverpool fans were told to use, creating a bottleneck and congestion. People were stuck there for hours. There were further problems at the turnstiles with overcrowding and scanners not working properly, with many people being told their valid tickets were counterfeit. The police’s response was to tear gas and pepper spray people, a tactic that is used to disperse crowds but is totally inappropriate and potentially lethal in a crowd in an enclosed area.

The official message from Uefa on the night, relayed on the big screens at the stadium and parroted unquestioningly on BT Sports, was that the kick-off was delayed due to “late-arriving supporters”.

Thankfully, in an age of camera phones and social media, it’s harder to get away with this kind of dishonesty. Many people, including journalists, posted photos and videos of the bottleneck and congestion, of people being tear gassed and pepper sprayed, and people with valid tickets being refused entry to the ground. Andy Robertson spoke out about the “shambles” and revealed that friends of his who he had personally given tickets to were turned away and told that their tickets were fake. Jason McAteer revealed that his wife had been mugged and his son attacked after the game.

The public outrage and calls for an investigation into what happened led to an Independent Review Panel releasing a report of their findings in February, which concluded that “Uefa, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster”. Uefa’s safety and security unit was ‘marginalised’ and failed to oversee organisational safety requirements. The police operation was ‘defective’ and focused on preparing for serious hooliganism, despite Merseyside Police advising that there had been “no significant issued of football-related violence” involving Liverpool or Real Madrid in recent years.

The police also failed to monitor approach routes to the stadium and to regulate numbers going through the bottleneck point. “Ultimately the failures of this approach culminated in a policing operation that deployed tear gas and pepper spray: weaponry which has no place at a festival of football…. It is remarkable that no one lost their life.”

The report also stated that the French Football Federation, who Uefa delegated a lot of the organisation of the final to, failed to monitor the number of Liverpool fans arriving on the train line RER D, and they conceded in a dispute with the police that fans would be directed to a checkpoint on the bottleneck route known to create access problems. The panel found that it was a “significant failure” to have no contingency plan to deal with congestion at the turnstiles, which “leads to an obviously dangerous crush situation”.

The parallels with Hillsborough are sickening. Many have argued that fatalities were only avoided because the Liverpool fans who had travelled to the game – some of whom were Hillsborough survivors – were mindful of the danger of crushing and urged people to stay calm.

As at Hillsborough, the claim that fans were to blame was “objectively untrue”. The report said that claims of ticketless fans were “wrongly inflated” to deflect blame from the authorities. Many people did travel to Paris without tickets, but the panel found that they did so to enjoy the atmosphere, not to try to get into the match. The report strongly condemned the attempt to shift the blame: “This is reprehensible and has involved Uefa, Uefa Events SA, FFF, the Prefecture de Police, government officials and French ministers.”

BT Sports finally apologised for repeating Uefa’s lies without bothering to do any fact checking or basic journalism before Liverpool’s Champions League game v Real Madrid in February. Jake Humphrey – who was rightly criticised for a crass, hastily-deleted tweet celebrating BT’s viewing figures “despite the result for Liverpool and the issues surrounding the game” – told viewers that “we are hugely regretful that we were reading out those false statements”.

Happily, we’ll be seeing a lot less of Jake next season, as he’s stepped down from BT Sports to spend more time on his woo-woo motivational go-getter bullshit and boasting about how early he gets up in the morning. No-one’s arsed, lad.

Don’t let club rivalries blind you to the fact that, when the authorities treat fans of any club like shit, they’re showing what they think of all football fans, and it could happen to anyone. It’s hugely disappointing when people forget that and think it’s ‘banter’ to take the piss. And, y’know, it shouldn’t need saying, but it’s basic human decency to not mock disasters. I’m glad the idiot with the shirt got arrested at the FA Cup final, but I also hope that the moron with the inflatable plane is found and action gets taken against him. Light hearted piss taking, making fun of your rivals’ failures on the pitch: fine. Absolutely part of the fun of football. Taking the piss out of people dying: completely unacceptable. This shouldn’t be fucking difficult. Don’t be massive dickheads.

That said, rivalries are part of the lifeblood of football. Can I take the opportunity to plug my article in the Non-League Paper on the 409 derby? Yes it’s paywall, pay the £2 and support quality journalism. Obviously, a massive club like us can and should consider City and United to be our real rivals, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say: Come on Inter.

So comrades, come rally, and the last fight let us face;

The Internazionale unite the human race.


Written by Arlene Finnigan

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