‘I was astonished and horrified in equal measure’ – UEFA Champions League final compared to Hillsborough

6 June 2022

Pete Weatherby QC

Pete Weatherby QC, in an interview with Radio Merseyside (listen from 2:08:00), has drawn comparisons with the events before the 2022 Champions League final in Paris and Hillsborough.

Pete has been advising supporters and a number of public figures concerning the events prior to kick-off in the match last month.

‘I was astonished and horrified in equal measure.’

From footage it appears that the French police acted with gratuitous aggression, approaching individual supporters and pepper spraying them in the face, despite there being little evidence of any disorder. Pete, who had watched the events at the time online, said: ‘I was astonished and horrified in equal measure.’

‘I was struck immediately by how similar what was unrolling before my eyes and ears was to what happened in 1989 at Hillsborough, although thankfully without such a catastrophic end result.’

‘Precisely the sort of nonsense that was spoken about the supporters at Hillsborough’

During the interview Pete noted in particular the fact that both UEFA and the French authorities blamed the supporters even as the problems continued. Despite the evidence and footage showing otherwise, UEFA and French politicians blamed Liverpool supporters for turning up late and for many having no, or forged, tickets, which Pete said is ‘precisely the sort of nonsense that was spoken about the supporters at Hillsborough’.

‘They were very quick out of the blocks to blame it all on the supporters, I doubt they will be so quick out of the blocks to share their operational plans for the day.’

Pete indicated that the UEFA inquiry should be welcomed, but that it will only work if there are people appointed to work within the inquiry from the UK and who know how to make an inquiry effective and independent. Pete emphasised that the key issue was to make sure that nothing similar can recur, pointing out that putting on major events is what the Stade de France and UEFA do, and that it was clear that they had failed to keep the supporters safe, or ensure that they were dealt with properly.

‘[The French Police and the French government] were very quick out of the blocks to blame it all on the supporters, I doubt they will be so quick out of the blocks to share their operational plans for the day.’

Pete advised that all parties should work together to get to a position where errors can be exposed in order to learn from the events. He pointed out that a vital part of that was to remove ‘institutional defensiveness’ from the process to avoid hampering efforts to get to the truth and implement positive change.

He added that, ‘a very key point is to liaise with supporters and Liverpool Football Club, so there can be no cover up and no suspicion of a cover up.’

 

Pete Weatherby QC is a human rights barrister who practices domestically in public inquiries, inquests, criminalpublicprison and police law. Pete led the team representing 22 of the bereaved Hillsborough families at the new inquests, and continues to act for them in a number of matters, including their campaign to get the Public Authorities (Accountability) Bill 2017 (‘Hillsborough Law’) enacted. He was one of the drafters of the Bill which seeks to provide a lasting legacy and prevent what happened to the families happening to others.

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