UEFA must find answers to address multiple factors behind shocking football scenes: Alan Pattullo

When they struggle to provide water for those in attendance, it is easy to take the view that UEFA need to up their game when it comes to staging major events.

That was the Europa League final between Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt almost a fortnight ago. The disorganisation evident at the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday night took things to a whole new level and underlined how the mistreatment of fans is becoming a significant issue. Where will it end?

It wasn’t UEFA pepper spraying fans in the eyes, of course. It wasn’t them who were battering them over heads as they tried to negotiate the tight access areas. The heavy-handedness of police is also concerning.

Much was written about crowd disorder, and the reasons for the seeming increasing regularity and scale of it, in the aftermath of last summer’s Euro 2020 final between England and Italy at Wembley. Clips of ticketless fans evading stewards went viral. There was even significant focus placed on the undeniable rise of cocaine consumption by football supporters.

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It’s unrealistic to claim there are not multiple factors behind the recent worrying scenes as well as the hard-to-ignore rise in pitch invasions. When players and backroom staff are being assaulted on what should be a patch of sacrosanct turf something has gone wrong with supporter control.

Fortunately, that particular problem has not reared its head in a significant way in Scotland since the 2016 Scottish Cup final, when Hibs fans spilled onto the track and pitch at Hampden to greet their historic win over Rangers. “Over exuberance,” was the term memorably employed by then Hibs chairman, Rod Petrie. That description became the subject of heavy debate. What’s inarguable is that “over exuberance” could not be used to describe the shocking scenes in St Etienne on Sunday night as home fans reacted to their side’s relegation from Ligue 1 after a penalty shootout defeat to Auxerre in a play-off. That looked like utter mayhem.

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Rangers FC and Eintracht Frankfurt fans pose for a picture next to a UEFA Europa League replica trophy ahead of the UEFA Europa League final match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 18, 2022 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Even as far back as November there were concerns about a wave of fan violence disrupting Lionel Messi’s maiden season in the league. The President of the Ligue de Professional Football, Vincent Labrune, denounced a “gangrene that could kill us”. France is due to host the 2024 Olympics and the rugby World Cup next year.

Liverpool and the British Government have called for an investigation into the chaos in Paris, likewise Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt in response to the clearly subpar standard of security and catering that bedevilled the Europa League final in Seville ten days earlier.

As well as the severe lack of water and food on offer at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium, there were countless stories of policing and security issues, including random and aggressive body searches. In other words, fans being disrespected. Again.

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Liverpool FC's supporters gather near Place de la Nation in Paris on May 28, 2022, prior to the Champions League football match final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images)

But football must take some responsibility. Anfield manager Jurgen Klopp urged Liverpool supporters to travel to Paris whether they had tickets or not. Imagine Giovanni Van Bronckhorst had extended the same invitation to Rangers fans earlier this month?

It might be a perfect storm of factors including what some ascribe to residual post-lockdown delirium. However, it’s up to UEFA to find an answer to the vexed question of why many will now think twice about taking family members to a high-profile game.

Saint-Etienne's fans invade the pitch after being defeated at the end of the French L1-L2 play-off second leg football match between AS Saint-Etienne and AJ Auxerre at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne, central-eastern France on May 29, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP via Getty Images)

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Eintracht Frankfurt fans arrive at the stadium as police on horseback look on prior to the UEFA Europa League final match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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