Corby Liverpool FC fans feared 'another Hillsborough' after being caught-up in Champions League final chaos in Paris
A group of four pals travelled by car and ferry to watch their beloved Liverpool FC play Real Madrid in Paris after securing official tickets from the club.
But Dennis Taylor, who lives on Corby’s East Lloyds estate and was at Hillsborough on the day 97 LFC fans were killed in 1989, said he was horrified at what he saw during the trip.
"There were fans coming into the stadium, gasping for air, screaming ‘it’s like another Hillsborough out there’,” he said.
"The organsation was a disgrace.”
After not missing a game at Anfield this season, Dennis had wanted to see his lift the UEFA Champions League trophy.
He managed to secure tickets for the final along with his friend Darren Meakins. They travelled with two other mates from Corby who planned to watch the game from the Fanzone in Paris city centre.
They set off from Corby in Darren’s Citroen Picasso on Friday and, two hours early, got the ferry to Calais. On arrival they drove to a railway station just a few minutes from the centre of Paris and were helped to find a parking space by locals.
"They were great,” said Dennis.
“They didn’t want us to get a parking ticket so they showed us where to put the car.”
When the group arrived in Paris the atmosphere was friendly.
"There were hundreds of fans there,” said Dennis. “There were police in threes with guns but there was no trouble at all. It was very friendly.”
The group made their way to a McDonald’s outside the stadium for some breakfast but a French man came up to them and told them he’d lost his ear pods. As the group bent down to look, he stole their bag which contained two of the group’s passports and diabetes medication.
A kind-hearted local woman took them to the police station and translated while they spent two hours reporting the crime.
At lunchtime the group split up and Dennis and Darren made their way to the stadium concourse while their friends went to the city-centre Fanzone.
“We went under the bridge to the gate,” said Dennis. “And that’s where the problems started.”
"The security was basically two young girls. We had official tickets from the club but they couldn’t tell whether they were real or not.”
Thankfully, an older member of staff eventually came along and let the pair in after they were searched.
"We were lucky we went in so early,” said Dennis. “We had friends that got there later who were waiting more than two hours at that same gate.”
The stadium itself didn’t open until later so the pair had drinks and food in restaurants around the concourse along with other fans. They were searched and had their tickets checked again on entrance to the stadium.
"The Madrid fans and the Liverpool fans were sitting at the same tables and talking. There was absolutely no trouble,” said Dennis.
"The atmosphere was fantastic. Really wonderful.
“The only worrying thing was the number of local gangs there who were selling tickets for 3000 euros.”
The pals made it into the ground in plenty of time but as it drew closer to kick-off and Dennis started to hear about issues outside, he became worried.
"We were standing in the ground and it was getting near kick-off and there were loads of empty seats. We heard on the tannoy about kick-off being delayed because the fans were late.
"That doesn’t make any sense,” said Dennis.
"Why would you get tickets to the game and travel all that way just to get there late?”
Fans have been heavily criticised by the French authorities for ‘arriving late’ and causing huge crowds to build up at the gates.
“It started to develop and then there were fans running in, gasping for air, saying it was like another Hillsborough out there,” said Dennis.
"You could feel the teargas in the air.”
Dennis went outside to see what was happening and saw hundreds of people queuing at just two gates that had to allow 20,000 Liverpool fans to pass through.
“The atmosphere among the Liverpool fans during the game was very muted. People were worried. It was subdued,” he said.
People trapped in queues outside the stadium were being hit with police batons and herded in and out of crowded areas. Ticketless locals were climbing over fences to try to gain entrance to the stadium, and police began indiscriminately firing teargas on people who had already had tickets checked.
The game eventually kicked-off 35 minutes late and Liverpool lost 1-0.
"The organisation was a disgrace,” said Dennis. “It was disgusting.
"They didn’t have enough experience.
“You can imagine how the people felt trapped outside when they could hear the music being played and the noises from inside.
"When they came in they were frightened. They’d been teargassed. But if it was the fans’ fault, why were they still selling beer inside the stadium through the game?
"I said to Darren that I felt a lot safer inside the ground than I did out of it.
"When we went out we had to go under that bridge again and the police had parked their vehicle across the entrance so everyone was trying to get through a 6ft gap.”
The group arrived home yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and Dennis still has a cough from the gas he breathed in inside the stadium.
"It won’t put me off,” said Dennis. “I’ll be there at the Community Shield on July 31.”
French officials have continued to blame Liverpool fans for the chaos, saying there was industrial-scale ticket fraud and that there had been 'no problems’ with Read Madrid supporters.