Sports minister to quiz Platini over ticket debacle
Sports minister Richard Caborn is to raise the crowd problems at the Champions League final with UEFA president Michel Platini after a number of bona fide Liverpool ticket-holders were refused entrance to the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
UEFA have put the blame for the problems squarely on to ticketless Liverpool fans or those with forgeries gaining access to the stadium and forcing Greek police to declare the ground full.
Caborn will raise the issue with Platini when they meet on June 5 in Brussels.
The minister said: 'I have a lot of sympathy with the Liverpool fans who paid their hard-earned money for genuine tickets but couldn't get into the ground.
'The reasons for this need an urgent explanation. We have already raised the matter with the Greek authorities through our embassy in Athens and government officials are also talking with UEFA.
'I will also be putting this issue high on the agenda at a meeting I am to have with Michel Platini in Brussels in two weeks time.'
The Conservatives' sports spokesman Hugh Robertson launched a powerful attack on UEFA and claimed the ticket problems in Athens were 'a disgrace'.
Robertson said: 'UEFA picked the wrong venue and then compounded the error by failing to put the correct systems in place to manage the situation on the ground. They should look to their own shortcomings before seeking to blame others.
'It is an absolute disgrace that Liverpool fans bought tickets through the club only to be denied entry to the game.'
UEFA communications director William Gaillard insisted the Greek police had been forced into a position where they could not prevent some ticketless fan moving barriers without provoking a riot.
Gaillard said: 'What's a disgrace is the behaviour of some Liverpool fans who deprived the rightful holders of tickets from entering the ground.
'Such statements from the Conservative Party encourages such behaviour - they should be condemning it.
'There was not a single incident involving AC Milan fans, and when Celtic were in the UEFA Cup final in Seville a few years ago there were three times as many fans outside the ground as inside and there was perfect behaviour.'
Gaillard also backed the Greek police, but said that UEFA would be looking again at the arrangements of the final to see what could be improved.
He added: 'I believe the police behaved in a very civilised way to avoid anyone being hurt, or worse.'
Simon Gass, the British ambassador to Greece, said UEFA needed to look at the issue of fake tickets.
Gass told BBC Radio Five: 'The organisers had a plan which involved three cordons to try to ensure that people who didn't have tickets were not able to get into the stadium.
'Clearly there was some element of breakdown where those fake tickets appeared to be legitimate - that's something UEFA must look at.
'The vast majority of fans with proper tickets got in but even if a small minority did not, that's not satisfactory.'
Gass is also to speak to the Greek authorities about some fans being tear-gassed as trouble broke out outside the stadium.