More than 1,700 Liverpool supporters who have reported that they suffered physical injuries or psychological trauma because of the chaos at the Champions League final in Paris on 28 May have registered with law firms to make claims for damages against Uefa.
People signing up for the potential group claims include some who reported that they sustained broken ribs in crushes at the Stade de France before the match between Liverpool and Real Madrid, and many more reporting symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the match, hosted by Uefa, the confederation of Europe’s national football associations, thousands of Liverpool supporters were directed by French police on a hazardous alternative route through a subway, leading to a narrow, bottleneck perimeter checkpoint where huge queues built up into a risk of crushing. Many turnstiles at the stadium were then closed for long periods, leading to static queues and a further crushing risk, and people were also affected by police using pepper spray and firing teargas. Uefa and the French authorities blamed Liverpool supporters for the chaos and kick-off delay.
Gerard Long, a partner at Binghams solicitors in Liverpool, said more than 1,300 people had registered their interest in a potential claim, most suffering from psychological trauma.
“We are representing people who suffered physical crushing injuries at the turnstiles, and very many people who have suffered psychologically; some were in fear of their lives,” Long said. “Clients have reported anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, never wanting to go to a European football match or even France again.
“Our case is that Uefa as the organizers had a duty of care to people – who paid a lot of money for tickets – and they breached it.”
The national firm Leigh Day has registered interest from 400 people who were at the match supporting Liverpool, said Jill Paterson, the partner leading the potential group claim. She said clients had reported suffering trauma and physical injury including broken bones and bruising from the crushes at the turnstiles, and injuries from being hit with police batons and shields.
People had given “really shocking” accounts of crushing, violence and distress, Paterson said, and reported panic attacks, anxiety, sleepless nights, flashbacks and fears for their safety at future matches.
“Our clients have told us that they were crushed and teargassed, and in fear for their lives,” Paterson said. “Some are people who were previously affected by the Hillsborough disaster.
“Thousands of people spent their hard-earned money on tickets and travel to what should have been a world-class event. Their safety should have been guaranteed; that is what they paid for as part of their ticket – a well-run event with all the necessary safety and security protocols and resources in place. There is no excuse for the chaos and trauma that unfolded. We were approached by one Liverpool fan almost immediately after the event and we have been looking into this since then and liaising with French lawyers to build a strong case to try and get some redress for the fans.”
Long and Paterson said their firms were in the final stages of gathering and reviewing the evidence and, working with French lawyers, preparing to write to Uefa detailing the claims.
Liverpool said this week that they had sent testimonials from 8,500 supporters to Uefa’s “independent review” of the near-disaster. Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief executive, said the evidence of supporters’ “harrowing experiences” identified congestion, insufficient travel information, problems at the perimeter checkpoint and turnstiles, “excessive riot policing tactics”, lack of communication, “the emotional impact of the incorrect reason for delayed kick-off” and problems getting in and out of the stadium.
Uefa declined to respond to questions from the Guardian about the proposed legal claims. It has said it will no longer respond to any questions about the events until its review has produced its report, which is expected at the end of November.
Uefa has said it sincerely apologises “to all the fans who had to experience or witness frightening and distressing situations that evening. No football fan should be put in that situation, and it must not happen again.”