Liverpool fans should be praised for behaviour that meant no lives were lost at the Champions League final last season, the sports minister said on Tuesday.
Stuart Andrew was answering questions from MPs conducting an inquiry into safety at major sporting events, including issues such as anti-social behaviour, ticket tampering and equitable fan treatment.
His remarks come after a damning Uefa report in February into the colossal policing and safety failures that marred the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris last May and led to Liverpool fans being teargassed by French police and a delayed kick-off.
“I’m glad to see that the Liverpool fans were exonerated from any blame and in fact actually it was only because of how they behaved there were no fatalities, and they should be praised for that,” Andrew told the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.
Uefa has opened a “special refund scheme” for fans “most affected”, and said that would cover all Liverpool supporters who bought tickets from the club. But it still faces threats of legal action, and France has come under scrutiny after a senate inquiry last year found supporters were wrongly blamed for the chaotic scenes.
Raising the “concerning records” between European nations and British fans, the Labour MP Julie Elliott asked Andrew whether the government needed to do more to protect fans travelling to Europe, and what could be done to ensure their safety.
“You’re absolutely right we need to make sure this never happens again,” said Andrew, recalling a conversation with a constituent who, present at the final last year, was a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 when 97 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed by a crush at the FA Cup semi-final.
“You could see he was visibly shaken by the fact that something as awful as that could happen,” Andrew said. “We know how dedicated all football fans are. They do need to feel that when they go to support their teams abroad that they are going to be safe.”
The scrutiny of safety at major sporting events comes before the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 summer Olympics are held in France.
“We will never stop learning, we will never stop engaging,” said Andrew. “All events are different by their very nature and sometimes things will go wrong and sometimes that’s at the fault of, as in this case clearly, bad organisation.”
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