The recent revelation by glorified UEFA press officer William Gaillard that Liverpool have the worst fans in Europe is slanderous at the very least, ridiculously sensationalist and fails to address the state of football in Europe in general. His comments are in contradiction with others from within UEFA (and himself) and I think he has embarrassed UEFA and taken away any creditability they had, if, indeed they had any.
It is true that Liverpool have a diseased element following the club but this is true of all top flight clubs throughout Europe, without exception. These people are partly to blame for the trouble and I would like them to take their share of the blame, whether they were getting in with forged tickets or without tickets at all and denying people with genuine tickets a place in the stadium. These “fans” could easily be from other clubs (I’m not suggesting they were) or the kind of people who aren’t real Liverpool fans at all. There is no law forbidding the wearing of a football shirt from any team but putting one on doesn’t automatically make you an ambassador of that club. It is said time and time again that football hooligans aren’t really football fans and the general, law abiding football population shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush.
There are a few key contradictions with what Mr. Gaillard said and they come from the very organisation he is trying to cover up for. Michel Platini, former footballer and current president of UEFA commended Liverpool for the atmosphere after the semi final game with Chelsea, the clubs fans were honoured by UEFA at a gala dinner in Monte Carlo in 2001 as joint Supporters of the Years with Alves after the UEFA Cup final in 2001 and then there is the comment from Mr. Gaillard himself on the eve of the final that Liverpool supporters 'have a tradition of good behaviour'. Worst fans in Europe? Since when?
The club itself had produced a report for UEFA a week beforehand predicting, sadly, all of the things that did go wrong. The clubs intelligence suggested there were 5,000 forged tickets in existence. UEFA knew and the club knew that thousands of fans would travel without tickets and the need for a proper check at the outer cordon was stressed.
There is no good going to come of playing the blame game but nobody wants to accept responsibility and someone has to. But who? The so called fans who instigated the melee or UEFA who should have had plans in place to combat what happened, especially as they had been briefed by the club itself as to what could and did happen. Had the people trying to get in been Greek locals would we be discussing this now, is it a grudge against Liverpool, English football or do UEFA stand by the deluded Mr. Gaillard?
To think that the supporters of other clubs in England do not have the same, hooligan and scum elements is to be incredibly naïve. I will never condone the actions of those fans but to say that it was only Liverpool fans who could have acted like this is beyond naïve, it’s ridiculous. When the England national team play they are usually treated with caution and this phobia seems to have crept down to a club level, add this to the cock eyed, stereotyped view that people have of Liverpool and the citizens of the city and the bile spouted by certain media organisations it is no surprise that people like Mr. Gaillard comes out with such ridiculous and contradictory comments. People from outside Liverpool base their knowledge of the city and its people on ridiculous stereotypes and second hand knowledge and judge an entire community with their half assed, ill informed views.
Ultimately, the question is of blame. The club cannot be held responsible for what people do in its name; anyone can don a shirt and do anything they please. Are Liverpool fans to blame? Yes and No. The kinds of people who use forged tickets or try to get in without a ticket aren’t real fans of the club; they are pretenders who think only of themselves. Does putting on the shirt of a team really make you an instant fan? If I put on a Manchester united shirt and throw a brick at a police car outside Old Trafford does that make all Manchester united fans unruly thugs? No of course it doesn’t. Im not suggesting that the problems were caused by people imitating Liverpool fans, rather people who think they are Liverpool fans but clearly not knowing what a fan is.
Are UEFA to blame? I have to say yes. It is their responsibility alone to arrange all the security and to police these high profile games. They knew what might happen, they were told by the club. The venue was unsuitable, a stadium not designed for football without turnstiles. The security was lacking and the Greek police were heavy handed, I fear UEFA are a group of over paid ego maniacs and wont learn from this. The next final is due to be held in the similarly unsuitable Luzhniki stadium, Moscow. There was a crush disaster there during the UEFA Cup match between FC Spartak Moscow and HFC Haarlem on October 20, 1982. The official number of deaths is 66.
As for Liverpool fans being the worst in Europe, I think on reflection Mr. Gaillard will regret saying those words. He must have a very short memory if he has forgotten already the Italian policeman killed in Italy as a result of rioting, the fact that games have had to be played behind closed doors more than once in the champions league in the last few years as well as numerous instances of violence and unruly behaviour in Spain and Italy, severed pigs heads being thrown onto the pitch, racist chanting, flares being thrown around and players giving Nazi salutes on the pitch. This with the corruption scandal in Italy that saw Juventus get relegated and other clubs, including the holier than thou AC Milan almost miss out on the champions league all together until they were mysteriously reinstated. Not to mention this seasons incidents with Manchester United, Roma and Lille.
The problems that happened were predicted by some when the ticket allocations were announced, they were absolutely unsuitable and an insult to both clubs. It was Liverpool however who had more of a problem with the paltry ticket allocation because there are always so many supporters who want to attend the games. It affected Liverpool more than Milan, simple. The 11,000 tickets that were eventually offered to fans is a pathetic amount and the ticket situation needs to be looked at as the starting point for this madness and learnt from.
Lessons need to be learnt from this and I hope UEFA come to their senses and admit some responsibility and the situation is resolved with out the need for further discussion and finger pointing.
There are many things in hindsight that could have been done to prevent the kind of fraud that happened and people getting in with anything from paper napkins to nightclub fliers and UEFA seriously need to look at what happened and never let it happen again. The fact that paper tickets are still the norm for such high profile events is baffling, why can’t we go more hi tech? The tickets should only be available to people registered with the respective clubs and so why cant some kind of electronic ticketing be introduced, much like the e-tickets you can get with airlines. The Glastonbury organisers have recently introduced a pre registration scheme with photo ID, why couldn’t this work? All you need nowadays to book cinema tickets online is your credit card, you then you swipe it when you arrive to get your tickers, why can’t they have swipe card readers at the grounds in future?
In the world cup in Germany, only last year the tickets were imbedded with pinhead-size radio frequency microchips with ID codes unique to the holder. Aren’t UEFA and FIFA supposed to be part of the same big football family? Maybe they are the kind of family that doesn’t talk to each other much.
To prevent people with no ticket at all getting in why can’t the security be more streamlined and better organised, we need to do away with the need for temporary police barricades made by over zealous police officers.
A cordon around the stadium with all the facilities inside the supporters need to enjoy an afternoon before what might be the one and only time for some fans to a see their team in a champions league final is another idea. The tickets could even have a designated time to be inside the cordon for, stagger all the times and the authorities will have time to thoroughly check all the tickets.
Finally, just allocate the majority of the tickets to the fans and not to corporate big wigs who leave at half time or sit in their box sipping champagne and eating prawn sandwiches.
What would Roy Keane think?
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