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Ros Atkins on… the trouble at Wembley

“Ticketless, drunken and drugged-up thugs” could have caused death as they stormed Wembley before the Euro 2020 final, says a review into the disorder.

The report by Baroness Louise Casey said there was a “collective failure” in planning for the match, which about 2,000 people got into illegally.

It noted 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors.

Lady Casey said the “appalling scene of disorder” as England played Italy led to a “day of national shame”.

Her report said there was a “collective failure” in planning for the match on 11 July, including a “vulnerable” stewarding operation lacking experience partly because of the pandemic and the police deployment arriving “too late”.

The knowledge that about 25,000 of Wembley’s 90,000 seats would be left empty because of Covid restrictions contributed to a “perfect storm” of factors.

“Our team of role models were in our first major final for 55 years. However they were let down by a horde of ticketless, drunken and drugged up thugs who chose to abuse innocent, vulnerable and disabled people, as well as police officers, volunteers and Wembley staff,” said Lady Casey.

“We are genuinely lucky that there was not much more serious injury or worse, and need to take the toughest possible action against people who think a football match is somehow an excuse to behave like that.

“I am clear that the primary responsibility for what went wrong at Wembley that day lies with those who lost control of their own behaviour.”

Italy beat England on penalties to become European champions.

The review into the disorder on the day also found that:

  • An England victory in the shootout would have created a “further huge public safety risk” with up to 6,000 people planning to storm the stadium at full-time to celebrate as the gates opened to allow ticket-holders to leave.
  • There was “a collective failure” among the organisations who staged the final to plan for the “foreseeable risk” of disorder and ticketless fans converging on the stadium.
  • Alcohol and drugs were a key factor in the disorder as fans arrived at the stadium up to eight hours before the 20:00 BST kick-off.
  • Planning for the final was hampered by the extra strain placed on authorities by managing the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the loss of experienced stewards.

What does the review recommend?

In the foreword of her report, Lady Casey says: “One of the saddest parts of this process has been hearing the testimony of FA staff.

“While they did not want the England team to lose that night, such was their concern for what might happen in the event of an England victory, they ended up with a feeling of huge relief at the result.

“In the end the penalty shootout went Italy’s way, the rain came down, and the crowds dispersed largely quietly. But we should not lose sight of how close the alternative was. And they should never have had to feel that way anyway.”

Lady Casey concluded that “law-abiding fans, our national team and our national game deserve better” and that the events of 11 July “can’t be allowed to happen again”.

She said the absence of fan zones close to the stadium were “potentially a very significant factor” in the situation spiralling out of control, and that the ban on drinking on London transport was not enforced strictly enough.

The national euphoria and focus on the final made fans gathering and disorder “foreseeable” and “there was a collective failure to plan for the worse case scenario”.

Lady Casey recommends a series of more general changes to help prevent a repeat:

  • Empowering authorities to act more strongly against fans using drugs, flares and smoke bombs at matches and around stadiums and entering stadiums without a ticket.
  • A Football Association campaign to force “a sea-change in attitudes towards supporter behaviours”.
  • Better communication between the agencies overseeing the match and the flow of fans to the stadium.
  • A new category for football matches “of national significance” to make organisers aware of the unique challenges of such major events.

The Metropolitan Police had said that 51 arrests were made connected to the final, with 26 of those made at Wembley. In all, there were 90 football-related arrests of England fans at Euro 2020.

What does the Football Association say?

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said that “no event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans”, but apologised “for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night”.

“We fully accept the report’s findings and there are important learnings for us, as well as other agencies involved,” he added.

“Collectively we must never allow this to happen again.

“The lessons learned from this review will ensure that fans have a good experience at major international events at Wembley, as they have for many years.”

England have been ordered to play one match behind closed doors and the FA fined 100,000 euros (£84,560) by European football governing body Uefa as punishment for the unrest.

UK Sport has denied that England’s possible bid to host the 2030 World Cup has been irrecoverably damaged by the disorder.

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