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 takes a few shots of the Jardin des Tuileries, just to mark the occasion. Because it is probably the last time that the president of the disabled supporters association of Liverpool, himself in a wheelchair, returns to the French capital. Still very marked by the events of May 28 during the Champions League final, he had to struggle to cross the Channel again to come back here to testify before the Senate inquiry committee, with his sidekick Joe Blott, chairman of the influential Reds fans association ‘Spirit of Shankly’.
It was for them a duty to travel in person in order to carry the voice of the thousands of English supporters still “traumatized” by what they experienced at the Stade de France. “We cannot transmit the same emotions in videoconference”, he tells us, two hours before the start of the hearings. In his bag embroidered in the colors of Liverpool, he treasures the testimonies of “the sick, the blind, the disabled, the wheelchair users, the survivors of Hillsborough” who for the most part feared for their lives by coming to us. attend a football match.
For a good hour, their faces still scarred, the two men tell us the purpose of their visit: “To shed full light on what really happened, to demand the opening of an investigation independent of the UEFA and respond to Mr. Darmanin’s lies, because we cannot let it be said, as your minister did, that Liverpool supporters are responsible for all this”.
When he evokes the Minister of the Interior, Joe Blott tries to contain his anger. “His lies and spurious accusations have added to the already immense trauma of the fans. No matter how much he apologizes, he won’t erase all the harm he has done,” he said. “He should be ashamed and resign,” says Ted Morris. Two hours later, before the commission of inquiry, these words become a requirement: “We want Mr. Darmanin to resign”.
Chilling testimonials and dumbfounded audience
Before listening to their testimonies, the president of the law commission François-Noël Buffet wishes to be clear on one point: “Contrary to what has been said by some in the same place where you are today, and in particular our Home Secretary, England fans were not the cause of these incidents. Everyone is very clear on that. Ted Morris nods and thanks the senator for these heartwarming words, after three weeks of denial from the French authorities. He then takes out his papers and delivers the chilling stories provided to him by disabled Liverpool supporters. Here are three that are enough to understand the horror experienced by thousands of supporters on May 28.
- “F, 8 years old, autistic, who came with his father and his 13-year-old brother, and who found himself crushed against the gates of the stadium, gassed by the police, separated from his dad and his big brother in the crush and who was terrified of dying”.
- “S, 13, in a wheelchair, held under a bridge near the stadium, attacked by gangs of thugs before being gassed by the police. When they threw gas, he thought the police were throwing bombs, he thought he was in the middle of the war in Ukraine”.
- “N, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, gassed three times by the French police. Since that day, he had a relapse and today he is very, very sick.”
From his desk, François-Noël Buffet listens, looking serious. And with him the fifteen senators who made the trip on Tuesday afternoon. “What happened is a shame for the French authorities, continues Morris. Disabled supporters were treated like animals by people who were supposed to keep us safe. Instead, in addition to gassing and shoving us, they left us on our own when we were attacked by the 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 hooligans”
At his side, Joe Blott specifies that these events have made the “fat cabbage of the press all over the world”, recalling if it were still needed the international scope of this organizational disaster, and this, one year from welcoming the Rugby World Cup and two years from the Paris Olympic Games. For this fine connoisseur of the Liverpool “supporterist” movement, which displays around sixty European trips – “without the slightest problem of violence” – on the counter, “the French police remained stuck in the 80s”.
“They took us for hooligans, he breathes. It was these false, hurtful prejudices that caused 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 in the most peaceful way possible. moving. »
For the president of “Spirit of Shankly”, “hearing the French authorities repeat the same lies as 33 years ago, during the Hillsborough disaster, has reopened immense wounds and caused enormous pain and grief” to the Red people of northern England. “In France, he concludes, you see football fans as a problem and not as a solution”. These words strangely echo what the specialists in the stands denounce throughout the year about the management of supporters of the French championship.
France no longer knows how to manage supporters
This is what Ronan Evain, the executive director of the Football Supporters Europe association, who accompanied Joe Blott and Ted Morris to the Senate, will say. “They were treated exactly as we treat our supporters all year round: as a threat. It’s a dangerous, dated approach. France is not an island and it must learn from the best of our European neighbors in terms of managing ‘supporterism’”.
It is in this sense that the lawyer Pierre Barthélemy, specialist in the question 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. The Senate has also often been a major player on these issues, in particular through the excellent report with the admittedly provocative title “Should we be afraid of supporters? but filled with good leads. »
In eight points, the lawyer details what France must do to never again be the laughing stock of the world and the fear of foreign supporters. Among them, let us mention the authorization of processions and their supervision by police forces trained for this, a better understanding of the profiles of supporters according to the clubs, better training and remuneration of stewards, who are often young and poorly paid, the systematization of individual sanctions instead of collective sanctions and the end of this doctrine (typically French) of 100% repression and 0% dialogue.
Before thanking and releasing the audience, the President of the Law Commission asks Pierre Barthélemy to provide him with this list so that these recommendations do not fall into oblivion as soon as the session ends. This is the very purpose of these hearings and the dearest wish of the Liverpool fan representatives. And Joe Blott to conclude: “We don’t do it just for us, we do it for the fans around 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 Olympic Games in Paris. Thank you for listening to us. »