Wembley faced ‘unprecedented’ public disorder at Euro final, says FA

Witness accounts tell of chaos and violence inside stadium as ticketless fans forced their way in

Wembley experienced “unprecedented” levels of public disorder on Sunday night, the Football Association has said, as the Metropolitan police admitted attempts by fans to storm the stadium ahead of the European Championship final had taken them by surprise.

Despite police and stewarding numbers greater than for any other match at the tournament, Wembley was besieged as hundreds of individuals sought to break through barriers, turnstiles and gates to gain access to the match.

Eyewitness reports obtained by the Guardian, alongside dozens of videos recorded by fans and posted on social media, reveal chaos, fear and outbreaks of violence as security was breached inside the venue. The FA say they will launch an inquiry into events “in collaboration” with the police, the Greater London Authority, the Safety Advisory Group and tournament organisers.

“Security and stewarding numbers for the Uefa Euro 2020 final exceeded the requirements for the match and were greater than any other previous event at Wembley Stadium,” the FA said. “However, the behaviour of the people who illegally forced their way into the stadium was unacceptable, dangerous and showed total disregard for the safety and security protocols in place. No steward or security staff should be subjected to this type of behaviour and we thank them for their support on the night. We also apologise to anyone at the match whose experience was affected by this unprecedented level of public disorder.”

The FA is responsible for safety and stewarding measures within the perimeter of Wembley Stadium, according to plans agreed with the Met and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. Events beyond that line were the responsibility of police and they said they were caught by surprise.

Laurence Taylor, a deputy assistant commissioner with the Met police, said: “We had planned for a number of contingencies. I don’t think we expected to see the incursion into Wembley, that is unusual. We are disappointed by some of the behaviour.”

He said there had been 86 arrests in the Metropolitan police area, 53 at Wembley with 19 officers injured including one who suffered a broken hand. Taylor said: “We had scenes from a minority of people that were wholly unacceptable.”

Taylor said there were more police on duty throughout the day than for any other game in the tournament, and described the Met operation as “very significant”, but did not say how many officers were deployed.

The claims of maximum security did not appear to tally with many of the first-hand accounts of the night.

One fan from Bristol who attended the final said she had been to more than 30 games at Wembley including England’s Euro 2020 matches against Croatia, the Czech Republic and Denmark. “Yesterday was the first time I felt threatened in a stadium,” she said. “When we were inside the gate, at about 5.30pm, I watched 100 people storm through a door to get into the stadium and they were attacking stewards and fans. There was no police presence, and a minimal number of stewards. It wasn’t controlled, and I don’t think the FA or the police were ready for it.”

Rob, who lives in London, arrived at Wembley with his wife and teenage daughter at about 6.15pm. He said that the Covid and ticketing checks at the stadium were “poorly conducted” and there were “insufficient” numbers of stewards where he was queueing at gate H.

“I saw multiple fans barge past the stewards or vault the barriers to gain access beyond this initial perimeter,” he said. “When we took our seats, it was obvious that there were already scores, if not hundreds of fans” in his section without tickets.

Other reports saw invaders take up seats in the VIP areas of the ground, taking seats from England players’ family members and forcing the son of Italy manager Roberto Mancini to sit in the aisle. There are also multiple accounts of widespread drug use on the premises.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the events at Wembley had been “appalling” and backed the decision to hold an inquiry. “I am in close contact with the Met who are reviewing footage and images. So far 86 arrests have been made and I’m pleased to hear that the FA will now be conducting a full review,” he said.

Boris Johnson, who earlier this year said the UK government would launch a feasibility study into hosting the World Cup in 2030, said any bid should not be affected by Sunday’s unrest. “It was a shame a small minority yesterday tried to spoil it but I don’t think it damaged the atmosphere, certainly not in the stadium itself,” the prime minister said. “I do think the UK has a very, very good case. I wouldn’t want to let my hopes run away with me but we’ll certainly give it our best shot.”

• This article was amended on 13 July 2021 to remove some personal information.


Paul MacInnes, Caroline Bannock and Vikram Dodd

The GuardianTramp

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