More than 1,700 Liverpool supporters who have reported physical injuries or psychological trauma as a result of the chaos at the Champions League final in Paris on May 28 have registered with law firms to file damages claims against UEFA.
People signing up for the potential group claims include some who reported suffering broken ribs in a crush at the Stade de France before the match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, and many more who report symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The match, which was organized by UEFA, the confederation of Europe’s national football associations, saw thousands of Liverpool fans being beaten by the French police in a dangerous alternative route through a metro, leading to a narrow checkpoint at the edge of the bottleneck where huge queues piled up at the risk of crushing. Many turnstiles in the stadium were then closed for long periods, leading to static queues and further crushing risk, and people were also hit by police using pepper spray and firing tear gas. UEFA and French authorities blamed Liverpool supporters for the chaos and kick-off delay.
Gerard Long, a partner at Bingham’s lawyers in Liverpool, said more than 1,300 people had registered their interest in a potential claim, most suffering from psychological trauma.
“We represent people who have suffered physically crushing injuries from the turnstiles, and a lot of people who have suffered psychologically; some feared for their lives,” Long said. “Customers have reported anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, never wanting to go to a European football match or even France.
“Our case is that” UEFA because the organizers had a duty of care to people – who paid a lot of money for tickets – and they violated them.”
National company Leigh Day has registered interest from 400 people who attended the match to support Liverpool, said Jill Paterson, the partner leading the potential group claim. She said customers had reported trauma and physical injuries, including broken bones and bruises from the crushes at the turnstiles, and injuries from being hit with police weapons and shields.
People had given “really shocking” stories of crushing, violence and fear, Paterson said, reporting panic attacks, anxiety, sleepless nights, flashbacks and fear for their safety in future matches.
“Our customers have told us that they were crushed and treated with tear gas and that they feared for their lives,” Paterson said. “Some are people previously affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
“Thousands of people have spent their hard-earned money on tickets and traveling to what should have been a world-class event. Their safety should have been guaranteed; that’s what they paid for as part of their ticket – a well run event with all the necessary safety and security protocols and resources. There is no excuse for the chaos and trauma that unfolded. We were approached by a Liverpool fan almost immediately after the event and we have since investigated and contacted French lawyers to build a strong case to try and get the fans’ story.”
Long and Paterson said their firms were in the final stages of collecting and reviewing the evidence and, in conjunction with French lawyers, were preparing to write to UEFA with detailed information about the allegations.
Liverpool said this week they had sent testimonials from 8,500 supporters to UEFA’s “independent assessment” of the near-disaster. Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan said evidence of supporters’ “distressing experiences” points to congestion, insufficient travel information, problems at checkpoints and turnstiles, “excessive riot police tactics”, lack of communication, “the emotional impact of the incorrect reason for delayed kick-off” and difficulties entering and exiting the stadium.
UEFA declined to respond to questions from the Guardian about the proposed legal claims. It has said it will no longer respond to questions about the events until the review produces its report, which is expected in late November.
UEFA has said it sincerely apologizes “to all the fans who experienced or experienced some terrifying and disturbing situations that night. No football fan should be put in that situation and it should not happen again.”