Q&ABilly Hogan on UCL final issues, investigation request and support for fans
Read or watch the latest update from Liverpool FC CEO Billy Hogan on the club's ongoing reaction to the events at the Champions League final and the support being offered to fans.
Billy, thanks again for your time to update supporters with the latest position on the issues they faced in Paris at the weekend. Firstly, could you tell us your response to the comments made yesterday at the Senate Committee? Accusations have been made that it was only Liverpool fans who experienced issues and again that 30 to 40 thousand fans turned up at the stadium either without tickets or with fake tickets.
Happy to be with you, although I guess not happy to be answering questions about this again. My response to the French minister’s comments again, as I said earlier in the week, is just one of disbelief frankly. Folks are probably aware that the Senate Committee meeting yesterday was three hours, so there’s still quite a bit for us to unpack in all of it. But, overall, given the body of evidence through video, photographs, personal experiences – and this is not just from Liverpool fans but from all fans that attended the match; media; English politicians; folks who travelled from literally all corners of the world to be at this match – which people have seen now across social media and other media channels, it’s just utter disbelief.
In regard to the accusations again that the numbers – 30 to 40 thousand fans – turning up at the stadium, this is the reason why we just keep asking for an open and transparent investigation into the details. I said this earlier in the week, people are talking about details which haven’t been shared. We haven’t had the opportunity to have that open investigation. And I just don’t think it’s appropriate for people to be making accusations until we’ve got all the facts.
And with regard to the fact that this is only Liverpool fans, I spoke to my counterpart at Real Madrid yesterday, who made it clear that their fans also had issues. They had major concerns with the matchday operation, including the policing operation around the match. We spoke for a while about this yesterday, I know they’re equally concerned about making sure this, again, is an independent and open investigation. My understanding is that Real Madrid are going to be putting some details out across their channels about this as well.
I referenced it earlier in the week and, again, maybe it’s just terminology but we at Liverpool have been calling for an investigation into what happened in Paris on Saturday, not a report. I think those are two very different things. We’ve written to UEFA again today and we’ve raised specific questions – 13 specific questions – that we’d like them to clarify around the details of this investigation. We need clarity around what those points we are asking, the questions we’ve asked, to fully understand the proposed process. We just feel it’s incredibly important that we get this investigation going, frankly that we get it launched immediately and that there are clear specifics around the process and how it’s going to work.
What would you say to our fans at this moment in time, because they have not only been subjected to some dreadful treatment at the hands of the authorities but now they are having to hear various accusations made by French ministers?
I really empathise with our fans. Nobody should go through what they have gone through on Saturday. I mentioned this earlier in the week – both accessing the stadium as well as leaving the stadium, it was an absolute disgrace. The pain, the grief, the harm, the hurt that they suffered on Saturday, and now to be told by a French minister that only Liverpool fans have been a problem, it’s just disgraceful. Real Madrid have made it clear their fans suffered as well. So all I can say is I have a tremendous amount of empathy for our fans, I don’t think it’s fair what’s being said and we’re just in disbelief.
With regards to your call for an independent and transparent investigation, what is the latest on the online form that you have appealed to fans to complete and tell the club about their stories from Saturday?
As I said earlier in the week, we have opened up the form and I just want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed their experiences. We now have over 6,500 individuals who have gone through the pain of reliving that experience and putting it down in writing, as well as quite a number of photographs that have been submitted as well. Again, thank you to those of you who have taken the time to do that, I know it hasn’t been easy.
I would appeal to anybody who has started the form and not yet completed it to please do so, and make sure you get the chance to tell us the story. I think it’s incredibly important that we get those first-hand experiences so they can be included into the investigation on what happened on Saturday night in Paris. I do want to make note that we need those forms completed by Sunday as we do need to then start collecting all that evidence and being able to put it into a position where we can submit it for analysis. So, if people can please take the time to do that over the course of the next couple of days it would be appreciated.
Do you have any other message for fans at this moment in time?
Yes, one of the most important things probably over the course of the last couple of days is just seeing, I think as we all have, the incredibly disturbing imagery in terms of the experience that fans had attending the match. I really think it’s important people keep talking to friends, family, loved ones on what you experienced. Our hearts are with you, everybody here at the club is with you. Through our Foundation we’re working with a number of expert mental health organisations to offer urgent support to fans. We have pledged financial assistance to those organisations which are already in high demand, and we are encouraging fans to seek support if they feel they need it at this time. We want supporters to know that expert help is available. A landing page has been set up on the LFC Foundation website signposting fans requesting specialist help from those partner organisations.
Finally, I know I’ve said this a number of times – but I will continue to keep saying it – we want an open and transparent investigation, not a report, into what happened and we are focused on that objective.