Jordan Henderson says he would think twice about attending a big football match as a fan after the “horrific” scenes at the Champions League final in Paris last season and the European Championship final at Wembley the previous summer.
The Liverpool and England midfielder, who was involved in both games, has dreadful stories to tell about the experiences of his family at each. He says his father, Brian, decided after Paris that he would not travel again, meaning he would not follow England to the World Cup finals in Qatar. Henderson has other family members who have been similarly put off.
The Champions League final in May was marred by organizational chaos and dangerous scenes before, during and afterwards. Thousands of supporters missed kick-off, which was delayed by 36 minutes because of congestion outside the Stade de France where Liverpool fans had been corralled into a bottleneck. The police used teargas indiscriminately and local youths attacked and robbed supporters.
“It was pretty horrific,” Henderson said. “When I spoke to some of my friends and my family and my dad, it was pretty bad. If the fans weren’t respectful there could have been a lot more problems. I think the fans were amazing.
“It was the authorities and the people around the stadium that weren’t and were causing issues. I suppose as a fan, if you’re going to the game and you don’t feel comfortable and you feel threatened by whatever situation, you’re not going to want to go again. It’s as simple as that really.
“My family and friends have had a couple of experiences over the last couple of years which have really shocked them and probably put them off going to future games. When you see scenes like you have in the Euros final, in the Champions League final, then they don’t really want to go and put themselves in that situation again.
“I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to put themselves in that situation. There were two totally different reasons [for the problems] but again, if it was me, I wouldn’t want to put myself in that situation.
“My dad said after the Champions League final that was him done. When it gets closer to the World Cup … there’s a lot of security elements and things that are going on in Qatar that I’m sure will make people safer. But when you’ve had those experiences, sometimes you think: ‘Is it worth risking it?’ We will have to see closer to the time.”
At the European Championship final in July last year fans fought with police and stewards and stormed the turnstiles to force entry without tickets. Alan Maguire, the father of the England defender Harry, was trampled in the stampede and suffered suspected broken ribs. Many others were injured and shaken.
Henderson said: “My wife and kids have to get in through a side door [at Wembley] and they wouldn’t let them in at the beginning. They were trapped. She was trying to get the kids away from the middle of what was happening and eventually, after about 15 or 20 minutes, somebody recognized her and let them in. If that person didn’t, it could have been trouble.
“My dad was involved a little bit and Harry Maguire’s dad was hurt badly. My kids were OK but they were lucky. I think other kids and other parents might not have been as lucky … it would have been horrendous [for them]. We all know that was a bad experience for a lot of people and then we have Paris, which is probably even worse.”
Henderson was asked whether the players were aware of what was happening before the games. “Not to the extent of how bad they both were,” he said. “The Paris one was a bit different. You come out [for the warm-up] and then it gets delayed. They just say: ‘Delays getting fans in.’ And you don’t really know why.
“Then you go out again [to warm up] and it’s still not a lot of fans [in the seats] and you start questioning what is actually going on. At the same time you are trying to prepare for one of the biggest games of your life. It was the same for both sides.”