France floats rugby cup invite as olive branch to Liverpool fans

PARIS — French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra wants to invite Liverpool fans to the Rugby World Cup in Paris this year as a friendly gesture after chaos during last year’s Champions League football final triggered a spat with the English team’s supporters.

“I have been in touch regularly with the president of the club and I submitted our idea to him, our will, almost our hope, to be able to invite them to one of the matches of England during the Rugby World Cup in 2023,” Oudéa-Castéra told the French parliament’s lower chamber Wednesday, as she answered lawmakers’ questions about the organization of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

A government official later said that while the final format for this invitation has not yet been decided, the “objective is to facilitate fans of the club … to show that English fans are always welcome, as a sign of sport friendship and welcome.” The official also confirmed that Oudéa-Castéra had made the proposal to Tom Werner, the chairman of Liverpool Football Club, last week.

During the Champions League final last summer in Paris, thousands of fans of both Real Madrid and Liverpool were crushed, tear-gassed and beaten by French police outside the Stade de France, with kickoff delayed by 35 minutes. French authorities including Oudéa-Castéra initially claimed the English club’s supporters had attempted to enter with 30,000-40,000 fake tickets and blamed the chaotic scenes on fans. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin later apologized and partly took responsibility for the “bad management” of the event.

UEFA, European football’s governing body, announced an independent probe into the events, and the French parliament also determined in a report that it was “unfair” to point the finger at Liverpool fans.

Last month, Liverpool fans unfurled banners during a Real Madrid match, displaying the faces of Oudéa-Castéra and Darmanin with a Pinocchio-like nose, accusing them of being “liars” for their initial response.

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