French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was criticized heavily on Wednesday over his response to the chaos that erupted at the Champions League final at the weekend between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
The match at the Stade de France outside Paris attracted massive crowds of fans from the UK and all over Europe who streamed into the city to root for their respective teams. Citywide police protection was stepped up for any potential problems.
Disorder, however, soon erupted as 30,000 to 40,000 people arrived at the first checkpoint and were found to have supposedly fake paper tickets, according to Darmanin. Denied entry after the initial gate, frustrated fans became unruly ones, with police resorting to using teargas and pepper spray to contain them.
Over the four days since, Darmanin has defended the police and continued to insist that almost three-quarters of the tickets were illegal. Tickets purchased online, however, did not pose a problem for entry.
According to French station BFM TV, Darmanin’s own boss, President Emmanuel Macron, was said to be “furious” with his minister.
A close aide to the president reinforced the accountability important to the head of state, saying, “The interior minister was expressly asked to step up and stop explaining that we were not responsible for anything.”
French daily Le Canard reported that Macron said Saturday’s events were “pitiful, shameful, and unworthy of France.” Liverpool has supposedly received more than 5,000 complaints over the incidents.
Darmanin was accused outright of lying on Wednesday by far-right politician Marine Le Pen.
“The facts are extremely serious and the lie by the minister is extremely serious,” she told France 2 TV. “In any other democracy with chaos that occurred in front of 400 million people watching on television, which offered a dreadful image of France, he would consider resigning.”
Growing criticism has emerged from other ends of the spectrum as well. Officials from UEFA, European football’s governing body, and the French Football Federation claim that only 2,800 of the tickets detected at the first turnstile were fake.
Left-wing opposition leader Manuel Bompard also chimed in to newspaper franceinfo, saying the minister’s explanation was nonsensical.
“When you make a mistake - and mistakes happen - the best thing is to acknowledge your error, not to invent fake figures to try to hide it.”
Darmanin will have another chance to defend himself and the situation when he goes in front of a Senate commission with Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera for a hearing on the matter on Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. (1500GMT).