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Stade de France: learning lessons from chaos

Ihere are two ways of looking at the troubles that occurred near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), Saturday May 28, before the kick-off of the Champions League final between the Real Madrid and Liverpool.

The first is to look reality in the face and coldly analyze the sequence of circumstances that led to a congestion of access and clashes with the police, pushing to delay by thirty-six minutes an event broadcast in mondovision. And then there is the one that consists of looking for more or less audible excuses to better exonerate oneself from one’s own responsibilities. Event organizers and law enforcement officials responsible for ensuring its security unfortunately opted for the second attitude.

Monday, during a press conference at the end of an interministerial meeting supposed to draw lessons from the chaos, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, pointed out a “massive, industrial and organized fraud of counterfeit banknotes”, implicitly throwing the responsibility on the “30,000 to 40,000 English supporters [qui] found themselves at the Stade de France, either without a ticket or with falsified tickets”.

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Moved forward, at the end of the match, by UEFA, the governing body of European football, and taken over by Minister of the Interior, this argument seems at least a little short, and certainly does not justify the treatment inflicted on Liverpool fans, the vast majority of whom presented themselves calmly around the stadium. The videos of families with children with tickets being pushed back with tear gas sprays were rightly shocking and give a poor image of policing in France.

This show of force is all the more open to criticism in that it did not prevent the parallel deployment of groups of petty criminals, some who came to free ride, others to rob supporters at the exit of the stadium. In addition to these obvious shortcomings in the security system, there were major malfunctions in the management of the influx of the crowd towards the stadium. All clarity must be made on the responsibilities that allowed these overflows.

Lack of anticipation

As often in such circumstances, the origins of the disorder are multifactorial. The strike by agents on line B of the RER, which forced the flow of thousands of supporters – mainly British – to be postponed to line D, which is not the preferred route to reach the Stade de France, has certainly complicated the ‘organization. But, here again, the lack of anticipation is flagrant. It is not possible to bring and leave several tens of thousands of people by public transport without a minimum of security and comfort, which have been lacking.

Read also: Football: the great transhumance of supporters with or without a ticket

“Without the decisions taken by the police and the prefect, there would have been deaths”, says Gérald Darmanin today. Invoking the worst to overcome one’s own shortcomings is not the best way to learn from this fiasco. The Minister of the Interior has hammered in recent weeks that the preparation of the security of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 would constitute the red thread of his mandate.

What happened on Saturday at the Stade de France does not bode well for this roadmap, especially if the government persists in denial. He must get out quickly to prepare for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in the best conditions. As for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which plans to welcome along the Seine nearly eight times more people than Stade de France, wouldn’t it be reasonable to revise the ambitions downwards?

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Incidents at the Stade de France: the denial of public authorities despite a failing organization

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