In the Senate,
From the window of the Talleyrand salon of a law firm in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, Ted Morris takes out his phone and snaps some shots of the Jardin des Tuileries, just to celebrate the occasion. Because it is probably the last time that the president of Liverpool’s Disabled Fans’ Association, himself in a wheelchair, returns to the French capital. Still very scarred by the events of May 28 during the Champions League final, he had to fight to cross the Channel again to return here to testify before the Senate commission of inquiry, with his partner Joe Blott, president of the influential association of Reds fans ‘Spirit of Shankly’.
For them it was a duty to travel in person to bring the voice of the thousands of English fans still “traumatized” by what they experienced at the Stade de France. “We cannot convey the same emotions in videoconference,” he tells us, two hours before the start of the auditions. In her Liverpool-embroidered bag, she holds the testimonies of “sick, blind, disabled, wheelchair-bound, Hillsborough survivors” who for the most part feared for their lives coming to us. football match.
For a good hour, with their faces still scarred, the two men tell us about the purpose of their visit: “To shed full light on what really happened, to request the opening of an independent UEFA investigation and respond to the lies of Mr. Darmanin, because it cannot be said, as his minister did, that the Liverpool fans are responsible for all this ”.
When summoning the Minister of the Interior, Joe Blott tries to contain his anger. His lies and spurious accusations added to the already immense trauma of the fans. No matter how sorry he is, he will not undo all the damage he has done, “he said.” He should be ashamed and resign, “says Ted Morris. Two hours later, in front of the commission of inquiry, these words become an obligation:” We want Mr. Darmanin resigns ”.
Chilling testimonies and a stunned audience
Before listening to their testimonies, the chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee François-Noël Buffet wishes to be clear on one point: “Contrary to what some have said in the same place where he is today, and in particular by our Minister of the Interior, the “England fans were not the cause of these incidents. Everyone is very clear about this. Ted Morris nods and thanks the senator for these moving words, after three weeks of denials by the French authorities. Then he pulls out his papers and delivers the chilling stories provided to him by disabled Liverpool fans, here are three that are enough to understand the horror experienced by thousands of supporters on 28 May.
- “F, 8, autistic, who came with his father and 13-year-old brother, and who found himself crushed against the gates of the stadium, gassed by the police, separated from his dad and older brother in the crush and who had the terror of dying “.
- “Yes, 13, in a wheelchair, held under a bridge near the stadium, attacked by gangs of thugs before being gassed by the police. When they launched the gas, he thought the police were dropping bombs, he thought he was in the middle of the war in Ukraine ”.
- “N, suffering from multiple sclerosis, gassed three times by the French police. Since that day he has had a relapse and today he is very, very sick. “
From his desk, François-Noël Buffet listens seriously. And with him the fifteen senators who made the trip on Tuesday afternoon. “What happened is a shame for the French authorities, continues Morris. Supporters with disabilities were treated like animals by people who were supposed to keep us safe. Instead, in addition to thrilling and pushing us, they left us alone when we were attacked by gangs. We had no choice but to flee to save ourselves. We will never forgive the authorities, they are the only ones responsible for this fiasco ”.
“They took us for thugs”
At his side, Joe Blott specifies that these events have made the “fat cabbage of the press around the world”, recalling whether the international scope of this organizational disaster was still necessary, and this, one year after the reception of the World Cup. rugby and two years from the Paris Olympic Games. For this purpose, a connoisseur of the Liverpool “supporter” movement, which puts about sixty European trips to the table – “without the slightest problem of violence” – “the French police got stuck in the 1980s”.
“They took us for thugs, breathe. It was these false and offensive prejudices that led the French police to ignore the recommendations of their English counterparts, who nevertheless told them in a report that Liverpool fans are used to behaving as peacefully as possible. “
For the president of “Spirit of Shankly”, “hearing the French authorities repeat the same lies 33 years ago during the Hillsborough disaster reopened immense wounds and caused enormous pain and grief” to the red people of the north of England. . “In France, he concludes, you see football fans as a problem and not as a solution.” These words strangely echo what specialists in the stands denounce on the management of fans of the French league throughout the year.
France no longer knows how to manage fans
This is what Ronan Evain, executive director of the Football Supporters Europe association, who accompanied Joe Blott and Ted Morris to the Senate, will say. “They have been treated exactly how we treat our supporters all year round: as a threat. It is a dangerous and outdated approach. France is not an island and must learn from the best of our European neighbors in terms of handling ‘fans’. “.
It is in this sense that the lawyer Pierre Barthélemy, specialist in matters of supporters and observer for FSE on the evening of the final, decides to conclude these hearings. “We are also here today to look to the future, because we are capable of improving. Even the Senate has often been a leading player on these issues, in particular through the excellent reportage with the admittedly provocative title “Should we be afraid of the fans? but full of good clues. “
In eight points, the lawyer explains what France must do to never again be the laughing stock of the world and the fear of foreign fans. These include the authorization of marches and their supervision by specially trained law enforcement agencies, a better understanding of fan profiles according to the clubs, better training and remuneration of stewards, often young and poorly paid, the systematization of individual rather than collective sanctions and the end of this (typically French) doctrine of 100% repression and 0% dialogue.
Before thanking and releasing the public, the chairman of the Law Commission asks Pierre Barthélemy to provide him with this list so that these recommendations do not fall into oblivion at the end of the session. This is the very purpose of these hearings and the best wishes from the Liverpool supporters’ representatives. And Joe Blott to conclude: “We don’t do it just for us, we do it for fans from all over the world who love France, we do it for you, for the image of your country. France has a unique opportunity to draw conclusions from this disaster before hosting the Paris Olympic Games. Thanks for listening to us. “