West News Wire: All Liverpool fans who were present at the chaotic Champions League final between the English club and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Paris last season will receive reimbursement, according to UEFA.
The governing body of European football, which received harsh criticism for organizational shortcomings that “almost led to disaster” in an independent study released last month, announced on Tuesday that its refund program will cover the whole Liverpool allotment of over 20,000 tickets.
In a 220-page report, the investigating panel stated that it was “amazing” that nobody died.
Fans of Real Madrid and other teams that match the requirements outlined by UEFA, the Federation of European Football Associations, will also receive refunds.
“We have taken into account a huge number of views expressed both publicly and privately and we believe we have devised a scheme that is comprehensive and fair,” UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis said.
“We recognise the negative experiences of those supporters on the day and with this scheme we will refund fans who had bought tickets and who were the most affected by the difficulties in accessing the stadium.”
Tens of thousands of fans were held in increasingly crushed queues for hours before the game on May 28 at the 75,000-capacity Stade de France, which is a key venue for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Many fans were fired on with tear gas by police before the game, which was delayed by nearly 40 minutes.
UEFA statements during the chaos and after the game wrongly blamed Liverpool fans for arriving at the stadium late and using fake tickets to try to gain entry.
After Madrid’s victory, dozens of fans were robbed by local residents while leaving the stadium.
An apology to Liverpool supporters for “the experiences of many of them” and the unjust blaming was made last month by Theodoridis.
Fan group Football Supporters Europe praised the decision to hand out refunds.
“UEFA’s announcement of the ticket refunds is both unprecedented and hugely welcome, and builds concretely on the apology they extended to Liverpool fans earlier,” FSE board member Kevin Miles said.
“Every football fan who has travelled to support a team abroad will know that, while it may have been Liverpool fans who suffered last year, these events or something similar could have happened to any of us.”
Images of the final tarnished France’s reputation for holding major sports events ahead of the Rugby World Cup this year and the 2024 Olympic Games, both of which will host events at the Stade de France.
This year’s Champions League final is due to be played in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 10.