Billy Hogan's reaction to UEFA independent report on Paris events
Liverpool FC's chief executive officer Billy Hogan today offered his reaction to UEFA's independent report on the events at the 2022 Champions League final in Paris.
Watch above or read a transcript below.
Billy, you have had a little bit of time to go through the UEFA independent review. What is your reaction to it?
Yeah, we’ve had a chance to review it, obviously late last night and then this morning, I would say a couple of different emotions and feelings really; one is sort of just thinking back now on the event, is one of sadness that that event itself took place and those events took place and the impact that that had on our supporters, and what should have been a celebration was obviously not the event that we all expected it to be. So I guess, firstly, sadness, but also really a sense of pride. If you read the report, I think it correctly found that there was no blame for our supporters, and I guess with that maybe a sense of relief, and frankly the lies that were started not even before the game had started, about the fan behaviour and that this was something that supporters caused – and that’s obviously been proven not to be the case.
So, just a sense of pride in terms of our supporters and the behaviour of our supporters. I think if you read the report, it’s mentioned a number of times in terms of being called a near miss. And frankly, I think if it wasn’t Liverpool supporters, people might have reacted differently. I think the history that we have as a club going back to Hillsborough really made people behave and, you know, I think the sense of our supporters policing themselves in the face of what was incredibly heavy-handed policing. I was in those crowds and I saw the behaviour of our supporters, and that’s the reason why it was a near miss and why it wasn’t an actual disaster.
So, lots of emotion. I would just like to say thank you to the panel because we worked with them over the course of several months and I know there’s a tremendous amount of work that went into it, and obviously we’re incredibly happy with the report as it’s come out, with 21 recommendations. And I guess finally, really, from our perspective, this is sort of the end of the beginning of this process. This is not the end of the process. I think it’s really important that the two things that we asked for were number one, an independent report so that we could understand what exactly happened, and number two to ensure that this never happens again – and that’s the part that we need to move to now, is to make sure that this never happens again.
You were pretty clear from the outset about what you wanted to see, so having read the report and seeing what’s in there in terms of the recommendations, how does it compare to what you were asking for from the first place?
Well, I think ultimately the contents of the report are what I thought would be the case, but we said at the very beginning, not just before kick-off but frankly that there needed to be an independent report – look at what exactly had happened, to understand what happened, to understand why it happened and, again, to ensure that it never happened again. And one of the things which we were really upset about frankly was this rush to judgement, whether that was messages that were being put up in the bowl before kick-off even, whether that was French politicians and the comments that were made immediately in the aftermath of the event, blaming fans for what happened, which obviously is not the case.
So, if you go all the way back, when we landed that next morning from Paris, I spoke about the fact that we needed to see what had actually happened, and so that was the importance of having the independent report. And the work that the panel has done, a lot of time and effort has been put into it and clearly, as you can see throughout the report, our fans have obviously been shown not to be at blame and really it was systemic failures around the organisation of the event that led to the issues both in the build-up to the match, but also a lot of people forget about the issues that happened after the match and all of our supporters, both Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters who had issues getting out of the Stade de France as well.
There were previous independent reports done last year into the events in Paris as well, what can you tell us about them?
Well, I think there were a couple of different independent reports that in the months after the event itself took place, and I know that the panel used some of those reports as well. So, the Office of the Prime Minister, which put out a report shortly after the event itself and blamed, again, the operational failures, lack of signage and issues that they came to. The French Senate, we had several of our supporters who actually went down and testified in that report, and again, they came out, we talked about this actually back in the summer, [there were] 15 different recommendations that they put forward. And then more recently actually, Professor Phil Scraton, who also put forward a report and I’d like to thank frankly all three of them because I know that those were used by the panel in coming to the conclusions that they came to.
In terms of the timeline now, what happens next? What are the next steps from the club’s point of view?
So as I said earlier, I think from our perspective this has obviously been a good length of time – eight months – since the final in Paris and this is, as I said, sort of the end of the beginning. This is where the hard work really needs to start now. Again, the sense of pride that we have from the behaviour of our supporters – the fact that it wasn’t the disaster, which is really down to the behaviour of our supporters around the match itself – but now we need to look at how we make sure that nothing like this happens again. And I think it’s important also to recognise that as a final, this was always going to be a focal point: two great clubs coming together in a great city to play in the most important club football match and it obviously was, as we’ve said, a near miss in terms of a disaster and that’s OK to focus on the final but it shouldn’t just be about finals. This is about all matches that take place and the behaviour of police, the operational delivery of these events needs to be looked at in the case-by-case basis to ensure that safety and fan safety, supporter safety, is at the heart of all of the operational planning that goes on. It can’t just be a focus on finals, it has to be a focus on all of the matches that we conduct across Europe and that’s really UEFA’s role and responsibility to deliver on that. So, effectively from our perspective we want to now see UEFA take these 21 recommendations and put them into practice.
There was an incredible response from supporters with more than 9,000 telling the club about their experiences. It’s important now to give them a message from the club in terms of what you expect and what happens next for them, isn’t it?
Absolutely. Well, I think going back to our ask immediately after the final, we asked all of those who were at the match to submit their experience and effectively their testimony and we said at the time and I’ll say it again: you couldn’t be more proud of the reaction, we had over 9,000 submissions and I can say in speaking to the panel during the process over the course of the last several months, those submissions were incredibly impactful. They had the opportunity to look at them, listen to them, read them, they had the opportunity to meet with supporters when they came to Liverpool several months ago and we were told by the panel how impactful that was. So again, just a huge thank you to our supporters. I know how difficult [it was], I read a lot of them and watched a lot of them, I know how emotional and how difficult it was to put that memory back down either on video or in writing. So, a huge thank you to our supporters and again, to emphasise the fact that if people are still struggling, that they need to continue to discuss it, continue to talk to friends, family and the services will be put up on the website as well. But just a huge thank you to our supporters and we couldn’t be more proud of them as a whole.