Q&ABilly Hogan on LFC's response to events at the UCL final
Earlier today, Liverpool FC CEO Billy Hogan discussed the club's ongoing response to the issues that affected supporters attending Saturday's Champions League final.
Billy, you gave us an update immediately after getting back from Paris on Sunday. Could you give us the latest updates on the independent investigation that you and others have been calling for after the events on Saturday?
It has been good to hear that others are also calling for a truly independent and transparent investigation into the organisation of the final in Paris. We have followed up on our request for an independent investigation with UEFA in writing. We’ve also noted our deep concern about the false information that’s being circulated, while really urging UEFA to agree to an open and transparent investigation into everything that happened on Saturday night, and we will continue to push for this. I’ve also read this afternoon in the media that there was a meeting this morning with French authorities and UEFA and a number of other stakeholders; however, we were not asked for our input or to submit any information ahead of the meeting, so we were getting the output of that meeting like everyone else: through the media. Finally, we are also reviewing legal avenues available to us on behalf of affected supporters. So, in summary, a lot of activity, a lot of engagement with many stakeholders since Saturday night and we’ll continue to push for an independent investigation as quickly as possible. In our mind, what that means is an independent panel of experts to conduct that review.
Given today’s comments by the French sports minister, who has blamed Liverpool FC for letting fans ‘out in the wild’ – what would you like to say in response to that?
I would just say we are incredibly surprised that someone in that position would make comments in the first place at this point, when we haven’t had adequate time to understand what happened. There hasn’t been an independent investigation to establish all the facts. And as we said on Saturday, there needs to be that independent, transparent investigation into what happened at the match. That’s the start of the process. So to be making comments at this stage, prior to any investigation being launched, is completely inappropriate. We should know all the facts to make sure that the scenes that we’ve all seen – absolutely disgraceful – from Saturday don’t ever happen again.
Making comments as deeply unhelpful as that, we just feel that everyone should be focused on getting the investigation right and less about making inflammatory comments that attempt to deflect responsibility for what happened on Saturday night. What I would say is that our fans were provided the UEFA information to travel to the stadium safely, which they did; they approached the stadium as directed and in good time. However, it was on arrival at the stadium when they experienced the issues. In regard to the comments, we were in complete disbelief when we were made aware of them earlier today. I think it’s important that folks know that our chairman, Tom Werner, sent a letter to the French minister to articulate our views and is calling for an apology to our fans for those comments.
And what about some of the numbers that are being published in the media today and at the moment, and the inference of there being ticketless fans at Stade de France?
At this stage I think it’s just not responsible to be making comments before we’ve actually gathered all the information. People have obviously had their experience on the ground at the stadium but until the relevant stakeholders have had the opportunity to go through a proper investigation, I don’t think it’s appropriate to be making any comments on any numbers. 40,000 people was the number I heard that were at the stadium without tickets, somebody said that today – how can that be quantified at this stage, before we’ve had an independent and transparent investigation? There’s also been quotes about people with fake tickets; but, again, how do we know all the facts until we’ve had an investigation?
One fact we do know is the Champions League final should be one of the finest spectacles in football and it resulted in one of the worst experiences of many supporters’ lives. So, I would say that all politicians and agencies involved in this event need to wait until a full and independent investigation is concluded before attempting to shift blame. The seriousness of these events requires that we do that, a professional review so that all the lessons can be learned and, as we’ve said, that all football fans – Liverpool or otherwise – never have to experience anything like this again.
What would you also say about the numerous videos and photographs appearing on social media and other platforms showing how fans were treated in Paris on Saturday?
Like everyone, I’ve been sent a number of them and I’ve also seen a number of them across social media. The videos and the photographs tell a consistent story: the unacceptable treatment of men, women and children which was, again, completely unacceptable. Also, to say our fans didn’t turn up on time is crazy. My colleagues across the club, our ownership and I, we all saw it with our own eyes; we were outside the ground, on the ground, in those crowds and from everything I saw, our fans arrived early and they were queuing as directed by authorities.
I spoke yesterday about an online form that we would be putting out for fans to send in their experiences and photographs and videos from Saturday. This has gone live this afternoon across our website and social channels, and I would really call on all fans, media and others who were in Paris for the match to use this form and tell us about their experience. There’s an opportunity in the form for people to put up to five photos and if you have video there’s an opportunity to do that as well throughout this process. All of the information is going to be treated securely and respectfully within the club. It’s vitally important that we get all this information into one place so it can be used in an investigation in the proper way, so I really encourage people to use that online form if they can.
Do you have any other message for fans at this stage?
Yes, really it’s a thank you from us to you. As we’ve seen over the course of the last not even quite 48 hours yet, the stories coming out of what happened at the match were just completely unacceptable. I’ve read many of them and I’ve seen many of the videos and the photos; my colleagues across the club have seen them as well. Most of these are pretty harrowing so I would ask people to just keep talking about the experience to friends and family; it’s important that people have the chance to unload that and talk to loved ones about it. Honestly, I’ve heard from a number of people who said what was supposed to be one of the best nights of their lives was one of the worst. That’s just incredibly sad and disappointing and it has to be addressed. Our goal is to ensure that the proper steps are taken to be sure something like this doesn’t happen again – to our fans or to any fans of any team or club.