If there is one positive about events outside the Stade de France on Saturday night, it is that the police tear-gassed and terrorised all the right people.
Sir Kenny Dalglish’s daughter; the hero of the 1981 European Cup final; Joel Matip’s brother; Gary Lineker; the director of the women’s game for the Football Association; Thiago Alcantara’s partner; the Golf Correspondent of the Daily Mail; the family of Jason McAteer.
Not that they deserved it. Nobody deserved it. But the fact that they got it means thousands of ordinary supporters, who might otherwise not be believed, will now be heard.
French police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters outside the stadium
Because we know that Kelly Cates isn’t a hooligan, and neither is 67-year-old Alan Kennedy, or Marvin Matip, or Kelly Simmons, or Julia Vigas, or Derek Lawrenson and his son, Conor, or Mrs McAteer.
So if they were caught up in the chaos outside the stadium, it exposes the lies that were told by UEFA, the police and the French state to cover their own ineptitude on the night.
If it happened to them, it most certainly happened to the others, the ones who usually have no voice and find it hard to get their stories heard.
For imagine if it was just regular fans who had been treated this way? Who would be their advocates? It only takes a 10-second clip of a few lads scaling a fence — and we don’t even know they were Liverpool supporters, there were quite a few strapping young locals occupying the stairwells in the Liverpool end, by all accounts — for scepticism to take hold.
Look at the Real Madrid fans, they didn’t seem to have problems. It’s that lot again. Always the victims, it’s never your fault.
Mayhem outside the Stade de France saw fans with tickets having to wait in huge queues
The French state said fake tickets were circulating on ‘an industrial scale’ and between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans arrived with forgeries or with no tickets at all
It left thousands of fans unable to get into the Stade de France for the Champions League final
Yet Real Madrid were treated differently. A French friend told me a week before the match that Paris was already on edge about the arrival of Liverpool; that Madrid’s fan park was more central, whereas Liverpool’s was out to the barren east of the city, near the end of the line.
At the conclusion of the match, while stewards stood in front of the Madrid end, riot police faced the Liverpool fans, part of a fictitious narrative that they were trouble-makers and violence could erupt at any second.
It was all part of the cover-up, the implication that Liverpool fans had misbehaved.
Gathering confrontationally as they did was damage limitation on the part of the French police, who will have sensed the growing feelings of outrage around their handling of the match.
Yet there was no problem, no situation requiring control. When the final whistle blew, most of the fans simply turned to leave, as fans do when their team have lost a final. There was no appetite for hostility.
The riot police stood there, irrelevant and unnecessary, keeping Paris safe from the handful of Liverpool supporters who remained to salute their team and watch the trophy presentation. Most just wanted to go home.
Kelly Cates and Gary Lineker called out UEFA on Twitter, following the tear-gassing of fans
On Monday, the reputational clean-up began. Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, said fake tickets were circulating on ‘an industrial scale’ and between 30,000 and 40,000 Liverpool fans arrived with forgeries or with no tickets at all.
Equally, friends of Andrew Robertson, the Liverpool left back were told their tickets were fake — even though they were supplied by him, through the club.
So let’s just say we should stay healthily sceptical about the authorities and their ability to spot fakes. Are Robertson’s tickets included in the alleged forgeries? Tickets that we know for certain were real.
Darmanin said 62,000 Liverpool fans travelled to the Stade de France, despite an allocation of 19,618 tickets, and that 70 per cent of tickets presented were fake. Really?
How do they know this? Because these seem quite specific numbers and percentages, whereas what we saw at Gate Y and elsewhere suggests chaos during which strict record-keeping probably took something of a hit.
The excuses were coming thick and fast. It was also argued that the Stade de France had a three-month lead time for an event that would normally be planned over a year.
It is a pity that this is what needs to happen for ordinary supporters to be believed
But why would a national stadium require 12 months of preparation to police a football match? The Stade de France has held the World Cup final, the European Championship final, and this was its third Champions League final. There are blueprints for how big events work.
And three months is hardly a rush. Baseball’s World Series is organised sometimes with as little as 48 hours’ notice. Nobody was demanding that of Paris.
Yet, still, they might have got away with this blistering incompetence it if it wasn’t for the indiscriminate nature of those on the receiving end.
If it wasn’t for the fact that these dangerous clowns were so incompetent, they managed to drag Lineker into the mayhem, they claimed club tickets were fakes and pepper-sprayed players’ wives and families.
And it is a pity that this is what needs to happen for ordinary fans to be believed. But fans have known UEFA’s flaws for years. When Kelly Cates calls them ‘lying b*******’ on Twitter, however, it means something might at last get done.
Wimbledon’s relic ditched at long last
Why the pushback against changes to the honours board at Wimbledon? It was absolutely archaic that Chris Evert’s 1981 singles title was credited to Mrs JM Lloyd rather than the player herself.
And why was marital status even a factor for women? The only shock is that it took the All England Club so long to address this relic.
Can Bale really say he’s won all five finals?
Roy Keane does not regard himself as having won the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999. Despite doing more than anyone in the semi-final against Juventus to get them there, he was banned for the final and, in his mind, the medal doesn’t count.
Jimmy Greaves felt the same about his belated medal for the 1966 World Cup.
He only collected it out of politeness. Newspapers campaigned for the whole squad to be given medals — as happens now — but Jimmy never believed in it.
So it is strange to see that nine Real Madrid players are now being credited with having won five Champions League finals, because it’s not exactly like that.
Gareth Bale collected his fifth Champions League winner’s medal for Real Madrid on Saturday
There are three players who have started all five games — Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema — but none of the other six — Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Isco, Casemiro, Nacho and Toni Kroos — have played in five winning finals.
So surely, as we are talking records in the modern era — the all-time record is Paco Gento’s six winning European Cup finals for Real Madrid between 1956 and 1966, playing 90 minutes in each — a distinction has to be made.
Bale, for instance, played seven minutes of Champions League football this season, coming on for three minutes against Paris Saint-Germain and four against Chelsea; Isco did not kick a ball in the entire competition.
Keane has always seemed hard on himself over 1999, but to suggest Isco’s contribution is equal to that of Modric is surely pretence.
Yorkshire’s terrible and costly mess
Yorkshire’s decision to sack 16 employees after the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal always appeared a knee-jerk reaction under pressure from the ECB.
Having failed to respond and investigate in a proper fashion, they made a sweeping round of dismissals, which tainted reputations and ruined careers, often without evidence.
As expected, this is going to prove costly, with £1.9million set aside to meet the wrongful dismissal claims of six of the 16. What a terrible mess this has been.
From start to finish Yorkshire have behaved poorly, and the ECB’s pressure on them has resulted largely in scapegoating. Few have emerged with credit.
Top-four flop could cost Arsenal dear
Tottenham might have got a good offer from Liverpool for Son Heung-min this summer, but his suitors were put off once Antonio Conte’s side secured fourth place.
Meanwhile, recently on this page, it was argued Arsenal could soon come under siege from the investment project at Newcastle, the way they once did from Manchester City.
Some Arsenal stalwarts were sceptical. Now it has emerged representatives of the club’s brightest prospect, Bukayo Saka, are pushing for a release clause in his contract. And so it begins. Think Son, think Saka. This was not a good year to miss out on Champions League football.
It has emerged representatives of Bukayo Saka are pushing for a release clause in his contract
Kirchner will take Derby on bumpy ride
It never ceases to amaze how gaining control of a football club separates a sound business mind from its marbles. Chris Kirchner, the new owner of Derby, will not use his software company to sponsor the club shirts. He believes that sort of promotion is more fruitful for consumer brands. So far, so sensible.
He added that Derby would be a great partner for a local company — such as Rolls-Royce. Yet Rolls-Royce are a high-end manufacturer of a top-of-the-range luxury product. Derby have just been relegated to League One in financial turmoil.
Why would Rolls-Royce wish to associate their brand with Derby? If this is the level of commercial insight Kirchner is bringing to the club, it could be a bumpy ride.
Every player is a Messi these days
Brendan Aaronson, Leeds’ new signing from Red Bull Salzburg, goes by another name — the Medford Messi.
That’s Medford in New Jersey where Aaronson played for a team run by his father, Real Jersey FC. He’s no doubt a talent, but Messi? Please.
Everyone’s Messi these days. Any kid who can dribble is Messi. Jack Wilshere was the next Messi, Fran Kirby beat a player and poked one in off a post and she was Messi, too.
Of course, if you had ever seen Messi, you would know there was only one — a little chap with Barcelona whose talent may well be unsurpassed in the modern era.
Between 2008-09 and 2020-21, he scored over 30 goals three times, over 40 goals four times, over 50 goals four times, 60 goals once and 73 goals in 60 appearances in 2011-12.
He did things no contemporary could imagine and his sense of space and time left most professionals flabbergasted.
It was a privilege to watch, but no doubt this chap from Medford is very good, too.
Rangnick’s shambolic United stint comes to an end
Beginning with the interim’s interim and ending with the news that after a dismal spell Ralf Rangnick’s consultancy services would not be required, the last six months at Manchester United should be filed in a folder marked ‘How not to run a football club’.
Rangnick was supposed to be a technician, the answer to a directionless campaign under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the temporary nature of his appointment made him too easy to ignore.
Either he couldn’t get his message across or the players were not gifted or motivated enough to carry out his instructions.
After such a poor run in charge, it was obvious Rangnick the consultant was a bust, too. Why would Erik ten Hag seek guidance from a man who so plainly couldn’t do the job? Even by Manchester United’s standards, this was a shambles.
Ralf Rangnick’s consultancy services are no longer required at Manchester United
Monaco doubts back again
The instinctive reaction to doubts about the future of the Monaco Grand Prix is to, again, wonder why the modern administrators have such little regard for sport’s traditions and history. How could anyone want to remove the crown jewel from the Formula One calendar?
Having watched Sunday’s procession, however, in which the front four cars followed each other around the track from the restart on lap 33 to the chequered flag, maybe history alone isn’t enough. Maybe a circuit requires the capacity to allow action to happen, too. Otherwise, it’s the M25.
No wonder PSG were desperate to keep Mbappe
Ligue 1 are considering legal action against Javier Tebas of LaLiga, who they believe is damaging their brand and reputation with his constant attacks on oil wealth in football.
Vincent Lebrune, the Ligue 1 president, wrote to UEFA accusing Tebas of ‘repeated denigrating statements’.
‘They discredit a flagship club of our championship and are directly aimed at disrupting the relationship of trust with our economic partners, when we are carrying out a plan of very ambitious development,’ said Lebrune.
Certainly the desire to keep Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain, which recently attracted Tebas’s ire, was ambitious.
Think who own PSG and what major event they will be hosting later this year. France are favourites to win in Qatar and, if they do, Mbappe is likely to be the tournament’s star.
What better for the hosts than to have the man of their tournament playing for their club in Paris? No wonder they were so insistent that he should not be allowed to move to Real Madrid.
Terry is still No 1
Any list of the greatest Premier League central defenders starts with John Terry and goes from there. Virgil van Dijk would feature, and Vincent Kompany, plus any number from Manchester United, certainly Rio Ferdinand. Sol Campbell should get a mention too, but Terry was the best.