An investigation into the chaos and crime that took place on the day of the Euro 2020 final in London has revealed that the scenes could have led to a number of people losing their lives.
Tasked with writing a report into the catastrophic episode, Baroness Louise Casey claims that ‘ticketless, drunken and drugged-up thugs’ were responsible for the disorder witnessed both at Wembley Stadium on July 11 and in the city before and after the contest, which England lost on penalties to Italy.
The chaos has surely irrevocably damaged England’s bid to host World Cup 2030, particularly as Casey found that there was a ‘collective failure’ amongst policing and planning officials to adequately prevent such a situation from occurring.
It’s believed that there were 17 different breaches of turnstiles, security gates and other access points at Wembley, with around 2,000 ticketless fans getting into the stadium and watching the game illegally – scenes Casey described as an ‘appalling sense of disorder’ on a ‘day of national shame’. Just 26 arrests were made at the venue.
The Baroness also revealed her belief that police forces were deployed ‘too late’ to help combat the situation, while stewards – many of whom were inexperienced having been employed for the final stages of the tournament – were left powerless and vulnerable to attack.
The problem was exacerbated by the fact that pandemic restrictions had left 25,000 empty seats at Wembley, creating a ‘perfect storm’.
“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,” Casey reported.
England have been punished with a two-game stadium ban by UEFA, with one of those suspended, and that will mean that the Three Lions’ next Nations League game in June 2022 will be played behind closed doors. The FA have also been fined £84,000.
A Lucky Loss
England’s defeat in the final will go down as a source of heartache for many armchair fans for years to come, but for those at Wembley that night it could have been so much worse.
According to the evidence gathered to support the investigation, as many as 6,000 people were ready to storm the stadium had England won – at the same time as the gates would have opened to let those inside out, creating the potential for a catastrophic crush.
In the end, some Football Association staff admitted it was a ‘relief’ that England lost – for fear of the scenes had Gareth Southgate’s men gone on to lift the trophy, while an official of the London emergency services told the Daily Mail:
“If England had won, I think it would have been horrific. And we’d have had to have declared a major incident, both central London and Wembley, I can guarantee that we would have been on our knees.”
The review has called for a drinking ban on London transport to be enforced more rigorously for future major football matches in the capital, while recommending that authorities are given powers to punish fans who enter a stadium without a ticket – or are found to be using drugs and/or carrying flares and smoke bombs – more heavily.
The FA’s chief executive Mark Bullingham has released a statement accepting the report’s findings, and stated his belief that ‘collectively we must never allow this to happen again.’
“No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans,”
Bullingham said, before apologising on the behalf of his employer for ‘the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night.’