The review into the horrific chaos that happened at the Champions League final last May has reached such devastating conclusions that, in a decent and responsible culture, this would lead the UEFA President, Aleksander Čeferin, to resign, journalist David Conn wrote in an article for The Guardian. As we have reported, UEFA has announced that it is the primary bearer of responsibility, but “collective” responsibility does not make sense in this case, since it is the leadership that gives the instructions to others on what to do.
“Senior officials at the top of UEFA allowed this to happen, even though the shortcomings of its model were widely known at senior management level,” journalist David Conn wrote for The Guardian, who also believes that “in a decent, responsible culture, the conclusions of the review into what happened at the Champions League final, would lead the UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin, to resign.” As we have previously written, the report of the evaluation commission concludes that UEFA was primarily responsible for hosting the catastrophic failure of safety at the final of the competition, and this was not a “collective responsibility.” As Conn notes, the report concludes that these were serious failings of Čeferin as the President, while the safety, which should have been taken care of by Čeferin’s friend Željko Pavlica, was “marginalised.”
More recently, UEFA has given the modern Champions League much more importance – as an elite sporting competition, presenting it as central to a European, community-rooted, ethical “model” of sport. This was the main reason why fans, leagues, governments and the European Union supported Čeferin and opposed the 2021 Super League breakaway, their intention being to preserve the best clubs and the full value of the Champions League in the European “football family.” Last season’s final at the Stade de France between Liverpool and Real Madrid was the second one organised by UEFA under the leadership of Čeferin. A top event with enormous revenues was guaranteed, but in the end, the fans were subjected to a dystopian nightmare, after which UEFA disclaimed all of its own responsibility and shamelessly put all of the blame on the Liverpool fans. The report strongly condemns this blame-shifting effort, even claiming that it was “reprehensible” and “spectacularly disgraceful.” UEFA’s false claims of the lateness of Liverpool fans, about whom UEFA also claimed that lots of them did not have tickets, also showed an unforgivable ignorance of football’s tragic history, and the almost identical lies told by South Yorkshire Police to cover up their failures which led to the unlawful killing of 97 supporters at Hillsborough in 1989, writes Conn.
UEFA’s heartless response to the football supporters in Paris was, according to the aforementioned journalist, merely further symptoms of the central failure identified by the commission. Journalist Conn also pointed out that UEFA’s unit for safety, which has its own security specialists, is headed by Čeferin’s close friend Pavlica, who was more concerned with the commercial side of the final than the security and monitoring. The fact that safety was marginalised at UEFA is an institutional failure, which, according to the commission’s writing, the people at UEFA have been aware of for quite some time now – and the event’s organisers delegated safety considerations to local organisers, in this case, the French Football Federation (FFF) and the police. “Senior officials at the top of UEFA allowed this to happen, even though the shortcomings of its model were widely known at senior management level.”
Čeferin should take responsibility for the event and resign
Čeferin, who has been UEFA President since 2016, should take responsibility for such failures that have left lasting trauma and put the lives of numerous football supporters at risk. According to Conn, Pavlica, who put the safety on the back burner even though it was his priority, should also consider resigning. When UEFA broke the news of the review, Conn believes they probably expected commission members to be sympathetic to their cause, but in the end, the commission was made up of independent members with similar past experience and experts in security, crowd control and policing and other security professionals, including Kenny Scott, former Strathclyde Police Chief Superintendent, Rangers security officer and head of UEFA’s security unit in 2017-21, who has retained his UEFA links after retirement.
The commission found that the management had failed in its most fundamental duty as a sporting body: to ensure the safety of people at its events. This is evidenced by the fact that thousands of Liverpool fans were sent to the stadium via a less safe route because the safe route was overloaded. In the author’s opinion, the Paris police made the necessary preparations precisely because of the Hillsborough disaster.
Thousands of people paid for expensive tickets and instead got a nightmare
Thus, thousands of people who paid the eye-watering prices that UEFA charges for its tickets went to Paris to see the game of their lives, but were instead plunged into a hell of disorganisation, were almost crushed to death in the crowds, were attacked by the locals and the hostile policing, and survived the event with injuries and trauma. And after all of that, the UEFA dared to put the blame for all of this on the Liverpool supporters.
Regardless of the report, the situation was also clear from the photographs and videos recorded by those who were at the match – and there were 80 thousand of them. There is more than enough proof, and in addition, there were lots of media reports on this final. However, regardless of all of this, the European football associations, including England’s, who all had senior people at the match in question, have still not called on Čeferin to resign. Not a single opposing candidate has been proposed for the upcoming UEFA presidential election, so despite the Paris debacle, Čeferin is set to be “reelected” for another four years in April, as he will be unopposed, Conn writes, adding that all of this “presents a devastating picture of UEFA and the state of the European football ‘model,’ a catastrophic absence of leadership, democracy and accountability which cannot be allowed to continue.”