Euro 2016 security fears raised by final trouble

By Henry Samuel

Marseille's fans light a fire after PSG won the French Cup final football match at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis. Photo / AP
Marseille's fans light a fire after PSG won the French Cup final football match at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis. Photo / AP

France and Europe's football executives faced calls to "totally revise" security ahead of Euro 2016 after the French Government admitted there had been serious safety "lapses" at the French Cup final on Sunday NZT.

Uefa and the French Football Federation held crisis talks with local officials as the French Government promised the failings would be redressed before the tournament kicks off on June 11.

The worrying breaches at the final between arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille at the Stade de France in Paris came amid heightened fears that Isis (Islamic State) terrorists are plotting to target the European Championship, which will run for a month.

Suicide bombers who attacked Brussels in March had initially discussed targeting Euro 2016 before changing plans as the security net closed in.

More than a million fans are due to arrive in France to support the 24 teams.

To add to the organisers' woes, French unions are threatening crippling transport strikes in protest at government labour reforms that threaten to seriously hamper fans' ability to reach stadiums around the country.

The Stade de France was targeted by three suicide bombers last November 13 as part of a series of Islamist attacks in and around the French capital in which 130 people were killed.

Deemed a "high-risk event", police treated the weekend final, attended by a crowd of almost 80,000, as a dress rehearsal for the Euros; new draconian measures included the erection of a 2m-high metal wall around the stadium and a triple security filter for fans before they were allowed to enter the ground.

Despite this, supporters managed to smuggle in fire crackers, smoke bombs and glass bottles, which were thrown during the game. A fire was also started in the Marseille section of the ground after the match, which PSG won 4-2.

Compounding the risks, the triple security checks created bottlenecks outside the stadium, with a stampede only narrowly averted, while leaving thousands of fans vulnerable to attack at entry points, reduced from 26 before the November attacks to four.

"By creating bottlenecks, we're going to have thousands of people clumped together, and if you're a suicide bomber at one of the four entry gates, can you image the panic?" asked Jean-Christophe Lagarde, head of France's centrist UDI party and MP for Seine-Saint-Denis, where the Stade de France is located.

"The security measures demanded by Uefa don't appear at all suitable and risk to increase rather than reduce the threat," he warned, adding that security should be "totally revised".

Philippe Galli, state representative for the Seine-Saint-Denis region that is jointly responsible for security at the stadium; said: "When the system was under pressure,
it collapsed at a certain number of points."

Police made 30 arrests and according to one security source made "inordinate use" of tear gas to quell violence.

Speaking afterthe meeting, Bernard Cazeneuve, the Interior Minister, said a series of measures would be finalised in the coming days to resolve these problems.

Cazeneuve insisted that security provisions for Euro 2016 were considerably higher than for the cup final but then passed the responsibility to Uefa, saying it was up to the European body to offer "suitable security" at the games.

Uefa has drafted in 10,000 to 15,000 security staff for over 110 sites, including stadiums, team hotels and other tournament sites. High-tech equipment will be used to monitor crowds.

About 2.5 million spectators are expected to attend 51 matches at Euro 2016 played at 10 stadiums across France.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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