More than 1,700 Liverpool fans who said they suffered physical injuries or psychological trauma as a result of chaos at the Champions League final in Paris on May 28 have registered with law firms to file compensation claims against UEFA.
The people who signed up for the potential class action claims include some who reported suffering broken ribs in crashes at the Stade de France before the match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, and many others reporting symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the match, hosted by Uefa, the confederation of Europe’s national football associations, thousands of Liverpool fans were directed by French police on a dangerous alternative route through a subway, leading to a narrow, perimeter bottleneck where huge queues formed at risk of crushing. Many turnstiles at the stadium were then closed for long periods, leading to static queues and a further risk of being crushed, while people were also affected by police using pepper spray and firing tear gas. UEFA and the French authorities blamed Liverpool fans for the chaos and the delay to kick-off.
Gerard Long, a partner at Binghams solicitors in Liverpool, said more than 1,300 people had expressed an interest in a potential claim, most suffering from psychological trauma.
“We represent people who have suffered physical injuries in turnstile crashes and many people who have suffered psychologically. some were in fear of their lives,” Long said. “Customers have reported anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, never wanting to go to a European football match or even France again.
“Our case is that UEFA as organizers had a duty of care to people – who were paying a lot of money for tickets – and they breached that.”
National firm Leigh Day has expressed interest from 400 people who took part in the match supporting Liverpool, said Jill Paterson, the partner leading the group’s potential bid. He said customers reported suffering trauma and physical trauma, including broken bones and bruises from crashes at the turnstiles, and injuries from being hit by police batons and shields.
People had given “truly shocking” accounts of being crushed, violent and distressed, Patterson said, and reported panic attacks, anxiety, sleepless nights, flashbacks and fears for their safety at future matches.
“Our clients have told us they’ve been crushed and tear gassed, and they fear for their lives,” Patterson said. “Some are people who were previously affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
“Thousands of people spent their hard-earned money on tickets and travel to what should have been a world-class event. Their safety should be guaranteed. this is what they paid for as part of their ticket – a good 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 incident and we have been looking into it ever since and are liaising with French lawyers to build a strong case to try and get some redress for the fans.”
Long and Paterson said their companies were in the final stages of gathering and examining the evidence and, working with French lawyers, were preparing to write to UEFA detailing the claims.
Liverpool said this week they had sent testimonies from 8,500 supporters to UEFA’s “independent review” of the near disaster. Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief executive, said evidence of supporters’ “horrendous experiences” identified congestion, inadequate travel information, problems at the perimeter checkpoint and turnstiles, “excessive riot policing tactics”, lack of communication, “the emotional impact of incorrect reason for late start’ and problems with entering and exiting the stadium.
UEFA declined to respond to questions from the Guardian about the proposed legal claims. She said she would no longer answer any questions about the facts until her review has produced its report, which is due at the end of November.
UEFA said it sincerely apologized “to all fans who had experienced or experienced frightening and distressing situations that night. No football fan should be put in this situation and it should not happen again.”