Tiago Brandão Rodrigues pictured in May 2021.

Uefa chairman of Champions League final control introduced ‘repressive’ fan card | Uefa

The Portuguese politician, who is leading Uefa’s review of the Champions League final chaos, has been criticized by supporters for his launch of a controversial fan ID card to combat hooliganism. His department’s legal justification for the deal included a reference to the Hillsborough disaster, which supporters also slammed as “distasteful.”

The record of Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, Portugal’s education minister responsible for introducing the “cartão do adepto,” a mandatory “fan card,” which has been vehemently opposed by fans, has raised further questions about his suitability to lead a review to which the Uefa has passed will be independent.

Further doubts about the independence of the review are raised by the appointment of Kenny Scott as assistant to Rodrigues, who was Uefa security chief until last year. After retiring, Scott, a widely respected former Strathclyde police officer, has continued to work in paid roles for Uefa as a matchday security officer, including most recently at the Nations League game between Sweden and Serbia on 9 June. Uefa told the Guardian last month that another safety expert, Steve Frosdick, who resigned in February, was “ineligible” for the independent review because he previously worked for Uefa.

As well as the brutal behavior of Paris riot police, a focus of the review will be the planning and management of Uefa’s final at the Stade de France on May 28, including how Uefa came to be in two statements, Liverpool fans for the Blaming Chaos on Nacht, and why they still haven’t been withdrawn.

Rodrigues’ fan card became mandatory for people in parts of stadiums generally occupied by vociferous “Ultra” fans. The card, aimed at tackling violence at the site and making it easier for fans to ban fans, was widely boycotted, resulting in empty sections of the site, and was rejected by Portugal’s national supporters’ association, the APDA, in a crowdfunded lawsuit . It was largely abolished after a few months last November after Parliament voted against it.

In its response to APDA’s lawsuit, the Department of Education used the Hillsborough disaster to justify singling out certain areas of stadiums to require a fan card. The department’s legal document gave the wrong date for the 1989 disaster, saying: “Such isolation of zones is reasonable for safety reasons and necessary to prevent the occurrence of incidents attributable to overcrowding (see the Hillsborough tragedy of 1986, when overcrowding in a stand resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans).

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues pictured in May 2021.
Tiago Brandão Rodrigues pictured in May 2021. Photo: John Thys/AP

Martha Gens, the leader of the APDA, said at the time it was “distasteful” to cite Hillsborough – where Liverpool supporters were well behaved but 97 were killed over police gross negligence – to justify a measure based on “sanctions and oppression” of football fans. She told the Guardian: “We found it outrageous that the Ministry of Education, which runs sport in Portugal, made reference to this disaster in its legal justification for repressive policies. It turned out that they did not have the necessary understanding of the relevant issues and they introduced a measure based on discrimination and the creation of ghettos in the stadiums.

“When Uefa announced Rodrigues as the chair of the review, I couldn’t see how one could think of him as having the expertise or the independence or the understanding of the fans to take on such a role, especially as another disaster almost happened, which would have been inflicted on Liverpool supporters.”

Uefa announced the review and nominated Rodrigues without consultation two days after the final, where thousands of Liverpool and Real Madrid fans were held in static queues for hours, tear gassed by French riot police and many attacked by local thugs. Publicly blaming the “late arrival of fans” as they delayed kick-off, Uefa issued a statement at the end of the game claiming the chaos was caused by thousands of Liverpool fans with fake tickets. This has deeply offended supporters who advocate a thorough, fully independent investigation.

Previously in Portugal, Rodrigues worked closely, including on the launch of the fan card, with Tiago Craveiro, then CEO of the Portuguese Football Federation, who joined Uefa President Aleksandr Ceferin’s adviser in March this year. Responding to questions about Rodrigues’ independence and suitability, Uefa said Rodrigues had relevant expertise as he was the minister in charge when Portugal hosted the 2020 and 2021 Champions League finals, which were postponed due to Covid. The first was played in an empty stadium; 16,500 fans attended the 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City.

Action in June from the Sweden v Serbia game where Kenny Scott worked as security guard.
Action in June from the Sweden v Serbia game where Kenny Scott worked as security guard. Photo: Tt/Reuters news agency

On July 1, Uefa announced that Scott and Frank Paauw, Amsterdam’s police chief, would be “senior experts” on a panel with Rodrigues called an “independent group”. Five other experts and supporter representatives have been asked to “support the review”, although it is not clear what the process will be.

Scott said that after resigning from his full-time job at Uefa last March, he remained on Uefa’s roster of security officials to work on individual matches, which are paid expense allowance. He worked in three EURO games at Hampden Park last year, including Scotland’s 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic, and the Sweden-Serbia game on 9 June this year.

Scott said he could not comment on any aspect of the review or its independence given his appointment.

When asked how Scott could be considered independent, Uefa pointed out that he had been recommended by Liverpool and Real Madrid. That is true, although a Liverpool source said Uefa had not informed the club that Scott continued to do paid work for Uefa.

Liverpool supporters’ club Spirit of Shankly (SOS) was also unaware of Scott’s further work for Uefa but had not recommended him for review anyway due to his previous long-standing managerial position at Uefa until last year. Joe Blott, the SOS chairman, said: “Any links to Uefa are a cause for concern and call into question the independence of the investigation.

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“We are also very concerned that Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, as Portuguese Minister of Education, was responsible for the launch of the fan card. While fans in Portugal are best placed to understand the full impact, it is extremely concerning to us that his government department referred to the Hillsborough tragedy in their justification for the programme. That was insensitive and inappropriate.

“We call on Uefa to clarify the values ​​and ethics of the investigation and how it can be considered independent.”

In response to detailed questions from the Guardian about concerns about the review, the introduction of the fan card by Rodrigues and Scott’s independence, Uefa said: “Mr Kenny Scott was proposed unsolicited by both clubs and Uefa has at no point proposed his appointment. Uefa have already indicated their intention not to comment further on the independent review until it is complete.” Rodrigues did not personally respond to the Guardian’s questions.

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