The Portuguese politician who chaired UEFA’s review of the chaos at the Champions League final has been criticized by his supporters for introducing a controversial fan ID card aimed at tackling hooliganism. His department’s legal justification for the scheme included a reference to the Hillsborough disaster, which was also heavily criticized by supporters, as “in bad taste”.
The record of Thiago Brandão Rodrigues, Portugal’s education minister responsible for introducing the mandatory “cartão do adepto”, a “fan card” fiercely contested by supporters last season, has raised further questions about his suitability to lead a vision insisted on by UEFA. will be independent.
The appointment of Kenny Scott, who until last year was head of UEFA’s safety and security department, to assist Rodrigues raises further doubts about the independence of the review. After his retirement, Scott, a former Strathclyde police officer, continued to work in paid roles as a matchday security officer at UEFA, including the Nations League match between Sweden and Serbia on June 9. UEFA told the Guardian last month that another security expert, Steve Frosdick, who resigned in February, was “not eligible” for an independent investigation because he previously worked for UEFA.
Apart from the brutal behavior of the Paris riot police, the main focus of the investigation will be on UEFA’s planning and management of the final at the Stade de France on May 28, including two statements by UEFA blaming Liverpool fans for the chaos. night and why they still haven’t retreated.
Rodrigues’ fan card has become a requirement for people in sections of stadiums that are usually vocal, “ultra” supporters. Aimed at tackling pitch violence and making it easier for fans to be banned, the card was widely boycotted, leading to empty sections in pitches and massively funded legal action by Portugal’s national supporters’ union, the APDA. It was largely repealed last November after months of parliament voting against it.
In response to APDA’s legal action, the Ministry of Education cited the Hillsborough disaster as a justification for setting aside certain areas of stadiums to require a fan card. A ministry legal document misdated the 1989 disaster: “Such segregation of zones is appropriate and necessary for safety reasons to prevent overcrowding incidents (see the 1986 Hillsborough disaster, where crowding 96 caused the death of a Liverpool fan).
APDA chairwoman Marta Gens said at the time that it was in “bad taste” to refer to Hillsborough, where 97 people were killed due to police negligence, where Liverpool fans behaved well, to justify a measure aimed at “sanctioning and repressing” football fans. is . He explained to the Guardian: “We are annoyed that the education ministry, which is involved in sports in Portugal, is citing this disaster as a legal justification for a repressive policy. This showed that they did not have the necessary understanding of the relevant issues and they introduced a measure based on discrimination and creating ghettos inside the stadiums.
“When Uefa announced Rodrigues as chairman of the review, I could not see how he had the experience, independence or understanding of the supporters to take on such a role, especially as it was another disaster for Liverpool. supporters”.
UEFA announced the review and appointed Rodriguez without consultation two days after the final, in which thousands of Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters were held in static queues for hours, subjected to tear gas by French riot police and many attacked by local thugs. UEFA publicly blamed “late fan arrivals” for delaying kick-off, then issued a statement at the end of the game claiming the chaos was caused by thousands of Liverpool fans possessing fake tickets. This has deeply offended supporters campaigning for a thorough, fully independent investigation.
Rodrigues previously worked as an adviser to UEFA president Alexandre Ceferi in Portugal, including with the then chief executive of the Portuguese Football Federation, Thiago Craveiro, on the introduction of the fan card. To questions raised about Rodrigues’ independence and suitability, UEFA said Rodrigues has the relevant experience as he was the relevant minister when Portugal hosted the 2020 and 2021 Champions League finals, which were moved due to Covid. The first was played in an empty stadium; 16,500 fans were allowed to attend the 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City.
On July 1, UEFA announced that Scott and Amsterdam police chief Frank Paauw would be “leading experts” on the panel, with Rodrigues described as an “independent group”. Five other experts and a representative of supporters have been asked to “support the review”, although it is not clear how the process will work.
Scott said that since leaving his full-time role at UEFA last March, he had been retained on UEFA’s roster of security officers to work individual matches, for which he was paid a stipend. He worked in three European Championship matches last year, including Scotland’s 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic and this year’s Sweden-Serbia match at Hampden Park on June 9.
Scott said that given his appointment, he could not comment on any aspect of the investigation or its independence.
In response to questions about how Scott could be considered independent, UEFA pointed out that he was recommended by Liverpool and Real Madrid. That’s true, although a Liverpool source said UEFA had not informed the club that Scott was continuing to do paid work for UEFA.
The Liverpool supporters’ trust, Spirit of Shankly (SOS), was also not made aware of Scott’s continued work at UEFA, but did not recommend him for consideration anyway because of his long-standing senior role at UEFA until last year. SOS chairman Joe Blott said: “Any maintained relationship with UEFA is a clear cause for concern and calls into question the independence of the investigation.
“We are also very concerned to discover that Tiago Brandão Rodrigues is Portugal’s Minister of Education. While fans in Portugal are best placed to understand all the implications, what worries us most is that his government department cited the Hillsborough tragedy when justifying the scheme. It was insensitive and inappropriate.
“We call on UEFA to clarify the values and ethics of the inquiry and how it can be considered independent.”
In response to detailed questions from the Guardian about concerns about the investigation, Rodrigues’ presentation of a fan card and Scott’s independence, UEFA said: “Mr Kenny Scott was offered unexpectedly by both clubs and at no time did UEFA propose his appointment. UEFA has already said it intends not to comment until an independent investigation is concluded. Rodrigues did not personally respond to questions from the Guardian.