Why Chelsea Fans Are Rightly Worried Ahead of PSG Reunion

Chelsea’s last trip to Paris brought two shameful events—though, unless you were there, you will probably have heard of only one of them.

The scenes on the Paris Metro have created much newsprint, and continue to have implications for both those directly involved, and completely innocent parties. But there was an equally concerning series of clashes that same night which garnered very few column inches, and it is this brutish behaviour, by the French riot police (the Compagnies Republicaines de Securite, or CRS), which is the biggest concern ahead of next week’s return.

As the evening of February 17, 2015 wore on, sat in the press tribune of the Parc des Princes, my phone lit up with messages of concern. The largest number of these complaints originated from a group of fans stuck outside the stadium immediately before kick off, who seemingly bore the brunt of police aggression.

The CRS later described this group as being “drunk and aggressive”—something that may have been true in one or two cases, but could not be said of the woman known to me who had a riot shield smashed quite deliberately into her face by an officer. They also claim supporters were trying to pass back already used tickets to fans outside the ground—something those present contest was a physical impossibility, and which certainly was not the case with the father seen trying to protect his son, aged perhaps six or seven, in the dangerously kettled crowd.

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

The CRS admit they then deployed CS spray on the crowd, something which led to several fans requiring medical attention, including one female fan with asthma suffering severe breathing difficulties. Despite the CRS version involving drunk and aggressive fans, no arrests were made.

It is often a complaint of supporters groups that clubs do little to help in such circumstances, but that cannot be said here of Chelsea, who set out to gather as much evidence as possible on the events. Having been fined €12,000 for the behaviour of supporters, the club lodged an appeal backed by numerous witness statements from that kettled group.

It was Chelsea’s case, as stated in the appeal document released six months later, that “police failures led to a brutal, unprovoked and indiscriminate attack on the club’s supporters.” Furthermore, Chelsea accused the CRS evidence that led to the initial fine of being “inaccurate and unreliable.”

Given the strength with which the club came down upon those accused of being involved in the Metro allegations of racism, it is notable how strongly they backed up the case of those involved in the crush outside the ground—especially given the reasonably paltry fine they were seeking to overturn.

Chelsea contested the CRS acted in a way that was unsafe and violated UEFA’s principles of crowd management; led to crush, panic and distress; and saw individual officers reacting to a dangerous overcrowding situation by using “indiscriminate, brutal and unnecessary force.”

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UEFA’s appeals panel had very little time for Chelsea’s case, throwing it out. There is some interesting wording in the conclusion to the case, hidden on page 143 of it’s half-yearly disciplinary appeals journal: “The fact that the police identified a conflict situation requiring them to intervene confirms the seriousness of the misconduct by some Chelsea FC Supporters.”

Just read that again.

In essence: the police can do no wrong, and if they believe visiting supporters need a battering, kettling or gassing, it is at their discretion to deliver those. One wonders if UEFA appeals chairman Pedro Tomas is aware of the small matter of the Hillsborough inquest, and what it has heard regarding the reliability of police evidence in football crowd situations.

When Chelsea go to Paris, a year minus a day from their last trip, supporters will find their liberty is curtailed. They will have to collect tickets in person in the French capital, from a location 40 minutes from the Gare du Nord and 50 minutes from the Parc des Princes. They will have to wear a wristband with matching number to the ticket at all times, or be denied entry to the match. They will also be depleted in numbers, with a severely reduced ticket allocation—this and the other points having been insisted upon, at least partly as a result of the Metro incident of 12 months earlier.

But the CRS, backed up by UEFA, will be permitted to take any action they like against fans, regardless of their behaviour, and have no fear of the consequences. In such circumstances, it is easy to see why so many supporters can see little but darkness ahead of their return to The City Of Light.

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Dan Levene on twitter
Dan Levene is a journalist of 20 years standing, who has covered the soap opera of Chelsea Football Club for more than a decade. In that time he has reported on the reigns of 10 managers, and a haul of 15 trophies - from Wycombe to Yokohama, via Munich.

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9 Comments on “Why Chelsea Fans Are Rightly Worried Ahead of PSG Reunion”

  1. TFM says:

    Was outside Parc des Princes in that night. Having attended football matches for 30+ years around Europe have never witnessed anything like the police behaviour, and they say we are the thugs?

    I only hope that we are only giving them 1500 at the bridge and charging them £70…. reciprocity and all. At least they will be able to watch the match and travel to the ground knowing they will not subject to random thuggery from the OB.

  2. Paula says:

    2014 was bad, 2015 was worse! So much so, that I have given up my membership of the Uefa away scheme as I refuse to go back to Paris. I know quite a few supporters who will not attend the game (even though they will have gone to the trouble of collecting their (£70!) tickets and getting their wristbands) because of the treatment of the police!

  3. Colonel says:

    The French are pooses & the world knows it

  4. Peter Milburn says:

    No one mentions the cars doing the same outside the stadium last season. Cs gas and beating up women. And for our friend who was pushed off the train…..yes it should never have happened buy he tried to get on again and again. He milked it and took 6 months off work. Imagine him on the London underground at peak times. He would be put in a straight jacket and locked up in a padded cell.

  5. French guy says:

    The policy in france regarding the supporters is crazy, they just voted a law where they can ban a supporter from stadium without any trial for two years, they even wanted to ban them from going in a pub that is showing a game on TV. It’s their goal that only fews chelsea people come to paris so it will be easier to control them. I won’t even be surprise if they ban supporters to come to the Euro 2016, if not they will go insane

  6. Dalma says:

    “Typically French. They have a history of running away unless they massively outnumber the oppo, they are cowardly scum & I hope one of them not only gets thrown off a train but thrown under the thing.”

    Congrats guy. this kind of hate rant help to justify such policies. Are you really that idiot or are you trying to be funny?

  7. Lee James says:

    Typically French. They have a history of running away unless they massively outnumber the oppo, they are cowardly scum & I hope one of them not only gets thrown off a train but thrown under the thing.

    1. Aod says:

      “The French are pooses & the world knows it” “Typically French. They have a history of running away unless they massively outnumber the oppo, they are cowardly scum & I hope one of them not only gets thrown off a train but thrown under the thing.”

      That’s funny because in France a very old expression is “filer à l’anglaise” which mean “runaway like english”. Because for centuries english tried to plunder the country but when an army came : “on the boats, on the boats, runaway !!!” You ran on the boats and we are still laughing… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ8jGqdE2iw

      For your information, these dumbass did this cause they are CRS. They act the same with everybody, including french people

  8. TRFCLoyal says:

    The CRS have always been appalling. As an ex-news reporter I attended many European games on ‘trouble watches’ in the 90s and noughties. I’m a football fan and I went with no agenda, I wasn’t there to stitch up English fans, I was there on a jolly, knowing that if anything happened I’d have to file a story, but hoping it wouldn’t. I’ve seen English fans attacked indiscriminately by foreign police all over Europe, but the CRS are by far the worst. I covered the game between Lyons and Forest in the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final and saw the CRS goons at their worst when they attended a packed bar where a Forest supporter was supposed to have pinched a waitress on the behind. The baton-wielding idiots smashed the bar and everyone in it to pieces, including many French fans and an undercover spotter from Notts Police. The CRS aren’t even full-time cops, they’re hired goons.

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