The mayhem outside the Stade de France stadium ahead of the showpiece event, which saw thousands of Liverpool supporters with tickets struggle to enter and police respond with tear gas, raised questions over the capacity of Paris to host the Olympic Games in 2024.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who has faced accusations of lying after he blamed the chaos on massive ticket scams, admitted that the organisation could “clearly” have been better.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss held a telephone call with her French counterpart Catherine Colonna and said an investigation had been launched.
“I raised concerns at appalling treatment of @liverpoolfc fans in Paris last weekend. I have been assured investigation now launched,” she wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
French government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire said that the matter had been briefly discussed at Wednesday’s regular cabinet meeting chaired by President Emmanuel Macron, who has yet to comment publicly.
“What the president wants… is that light is shone on what really happened, in full transparency, and very quickly,” she told reporters, while emphasising Darmanin had Macron’s “full confidence”.
She said Macron also expected action from the government to ensure that this “never happens again”.
“Simply put, could we have done things better, could it have been better managed? Yes,” she acknowledged. “Were there wounded, a tragedy? No. Can we improve things for future sporting events? Certainly.”
She confirmed that 2,700 supporters had been unable to watch the match due to the chaos.
“The president of the republic and all his government are sad and sorry for these people who lost out.”
Despite the public professions of support, French media reports said that Macron was privately furious with Darmanin, 39, a high-flying right-winger.
The Canard Enchaine satirical weekly said that Macron had told Darmanin that what happened was a “heavy blow for France”.
“We can say that he was furious,” BFM TV cited a source close to Macron as saying.
“The minister of the interior was expressly asked to step up and stop insisting that we were not to blame,” the source added.
Darmanin and Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera appeared later Wednesday before a Senate committee hearing facing questions about security at the game, which tarnished France’s image ahead of its hosting of the rugby World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2024.
Appearing to adopt a slightly more conciliatory tone, Darmanin admitted there had been shortcomings and apologised to the Liverpool fans, especially for the use of tear gas against children.
“Clearly things could have been organised better. It is evident that this celebration of sport was ruined and we very much regret the troubles which were sometimes unacceptable,” he said.
“For the football fans the negative image of this match wounded our national pride. Did we avoid the worst? Yes. Could we have prepared better? Without doubt,” he said.
Darmanin said 110,000 people were “in and around” the stadium — exceeding its capacity by 35,000 — and that as many as 70 percent of tickets were found to be fraudulent by staff at the first security checkpoints.
Brandishing a real ticket and fake ticket to make his point, Darmanin said that some entry tickets had been forged by tricksters hundreds of times over.
He expressed regret over the “disproportionate” use of tear gas, saying “sanctions will be taken” against the officers in charge.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen suggested Darmanin should resign after he defended the French police and blamed ticket counterfeiting for the chaos.
“The facts are extremely serious and the lie by the minister is extremely serious,” Le Pen told France 2 television.
“In any other democracy, faced with such a fiasco, with chaos that occurred in front of 400 million people watching on television, which offered a dreadful image of France, then he should consider himself that he should resign,” she added.
The left-wing Liberation newspaper depicted Darmanin on its front page on Wednesday with his nose stretched out like Pinocchio.
The newspaper’s editorial, headlined “Lie”, said the final “risks remaining in the annals of the republic long even after it has been forgotten by football fans”.
The scenes have caused renewed tensions between France and Britain, whose ties are already strained, and have become a domestic political headache for the government less than two weeks before parliamentary elections.