Michel Platini seems to have assumed he'd be welcomed to UEFA
with open arms and be given the mandate to do pretty much as he pleases. That's
not quite how it looks like turning out for the new president of Europe's
current football governing body.
Yesterday he was assuming that the members of the powerful
G14 group – 18 of Europe's biggest clubs – would ditch their organisation. Platini
got into his position of power at UEFA by promising the smaller nations they
would be guaranteed a place in the group stages rather than having to qualify.
Of course that causes some of the bigger teams to risk missing out, with
countries currently getting four places being cut back to three or less. G14
are more likely to close ranks and ditch UEFA than they are to ditch the G14
Today he is reading about a threat of legal action against
his poorly-run organisation. Rather than sitting back and accepting UEFA's view
that it's ok to be locked out of a game he'd paid for and that it should all be
blamed on a minority of fans, Paul Gregory is angry and looking for
compensation. Platini is getting a warning to wake up. If Platini has any sense
he'll do all he can to compensate those who missed out, at least this year he
can blame the errors on the actions of his predecessors. He isn't a popular
choice as president; he needs to avoid sitting back and assuming people
actually like his ideas.
Mr Gregory, and two friends, spent £2370 on flights, hotel
and match tickets for the final last week. Not only did they fail to get in to
see what they'd paid all that money to see, they suffered an ordeal that
Platini should be ashamed of.
Rather than sit back and let UEFA off the hook, he decided
to write to them, in fact he wrote to Platini: "I would like this to be
reimbursed by UEFA,'' he wrote, in reference to the money he'd spent, "It's the
least you can do for putting our lives at risk. If this is not forthcoming we
intend to take action against UEFA through the British judicial system, and
through the European Courts if necessary. It was only through good luck that UEFA
He explained what the ordeal was: "As a former shareholder
in Liverpool FC I am the recipient of three €140 tickets for the Champions
League final. All are still unused as we were refused entry into the stadium. I
was herded, tear-gassed, kicked and baton-charged by riot police outside the
stadium for the hour leading up to kick-off and way beyond. As the organising
body, UEFA has a duty of care towards its legitimate ticket-holders in just the
same way as any corporate body has towards its customers. This duty of care
extends to having systems in place to deny entry to the stadium to non-ticket
holders. Demonstrably these systems were not in place."
Mr Gregory is aware that some Liverpool fans should be
ashamed of themselves for their actions, but rightly points out that UEFA
should have ensured that a few idiots couldn't spoil the enjoyment of the
majority: "While unsavoury elements of the Liverpool fans must take
responsibility for their actions, so must UEFA take responsibility for its
shortcomings. UEFA appears to have planned for a genteel corporate networking
event. It took its eye off the ball and forgot about a football match between
two of Europe's largest and most passionately supported football clubs, despite
warnings weeks ahead forged tickets were likely to be in circulation."
As Mr Gregory explains, forged tickets weren't even
necessary for fans to use to con their way in: "Not only did thousands gain
entry to the stadium with amateurish, photo-copied forgeries (some not even
bothering to print the reverse side of the ticket!) but, incredibly, some fans
simply walked into the stadium with no ticket at all – forged or legitimate!
Others waved a stadium map and gained entry. One fan gained entry to the press
box with a photo-copied press pass."
Ensuring all bases are covered, Mr Gregory has also written
to Brian Barwick, the FA's Chief Executive (who should be fighting for the
refunds too) along with officials at Anfield: Rick Parry (current CEO), Foster
Gillett (George Gillett Jnr's son), Tom Hicks Jnr and manager Rafael Benítez.
The game kicked off at 9.45pm Greek time, and Gregory went
over what happened from his arrival at the area where the ground was: "I can't
even be accused of naivety as this was my sixth European Cup final and I
arrived at the stadium an hour and a half before kick-off. Plenty of time to
negotiate ‘security', I thought.
"8.15pm: Arrived at stadium complex entrance arch. Everyone
relaxed. Fans funnelled by railings into several entry points. It became
apparent fairly quickly very few people were being let through. It also became
apparent this was a holding operation.
"8.45: Crushing begins as fans see little progress. Panic
beginning. Children lifted up and crying. Pushing from behind. Police respond
by pushing back and forming an impenetrable barrier.
"9.00: I finally make it to the front. Extruded like
toothpaste out of a tube into police line; 100m further on, a line of police
buses with a bus-sized gap and riot police blocking it. Fans backing up here.
It becomes apparent this is a similar holding operation. It looks like one or
two are allowed through at a time to give the appearance of a checkpoint.
Totally inadequate again. We hold up our tickets, to no avail.
"9.30: No one is getting through now. Police drive a bus in
to close gap off completely. Crowd of 2,000-5,000 backing up. Panic, crushing.
My feet aren't touching the ground. Kids crying. Pressure increases to
dangerous levels. This prompts police to let crowd know over hand-held tannoy
that ‘the stadium is full! You can't get in'. No one can believe it. The
charade is over. The crowd realise they haven't been policed; they've been
conned, corralled, herded and contained for the last hour. A surge from the
back and now it's confrontational. The police get more vocal and counter-surge
with shields, batons, helmets, visors and boots, pushing us back a few metres. The
police fire a huge cloud of tear gas and panic ensues. Police batter their way
forward. Crowd retreats, choking and eyes streaming.
"9.45: We assume the match will not kick off. Surprised to
find it has.
"10.00: Some fans regroup and storm staircases to our right.
Running skirmishes. Beaten back by police. Tear gas again, kickings. Some fans
try to crawl under parked buses. This goes on until about 10.30. We make our
In particular Gregory wants to know the answer to these three
"1) At what time was the stadium declared closed? And by
"2) What security arrangements did you have in place,
particularly in regard to forged tickets that UEFA had been warned about weeks
"3) Why are corporate ‘partners' allowed to sell tickets at
hugely inflated rates to fans?'
He has a solution that he believes would perhaps help: "Finally,
if you want a solution to this perennial problem the answer (apart from
security that actually works) is easy: license clubs to show the match live on
screens at their home stadium when the live venue is sold out.''
Will Michel Platini have the decency to look at this matter
without the need for legal action? If he doesn't then he really ought to step
down from his new role. Yes, the minority shouldn't have done what they did,
but that's what happens in life unfortunately. It's up to those in charge of
organising events such as these that they ensure a minority aren't able to carry
out actions that endanger others.