Fan disorder which marred the Euro 2020 final at Wembley was a “near miss” of fatalities and a “source of national shame”, an independent review commissioned by the Football Association has found.
The review carried out by Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock found approximately 2,000 ticketless fans gained entry to the stadium, of which around 400 were ejected, for the showpiece between England and Italy on July 11.
It noted entry to the stadium was through 17 “mass breaches” of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors, which “jeopardised the lives of legitimate supporters and staff”.
Baroness Casey found a “collective failure” by organisations in the preparation for the stature of the match.
“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,” said Baroness Carey.
“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 that day, not with anyone who did their best but lost control of the crowd.”
A penalty shootout victory by England could have resulted in a further huge public safety risk, the review identified, with up to 6,000 ticketless fans waiting to storm the stadium at the same time as doors were being opened to allow other fans to leave.
An official from the London emergency services said the consequences of an England win would have been “horrific”, and that a major incident would have been declared at Wembley and in central London.
Alcohol and drugs were a key factor in the disorder as fans arrived at the stadium up to eight hours before the 8pm kick-off.
Baroness Casey’s report found the ongoing need to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and the euphoria around the men’s national team reaching their first final since 1966 combined to create a “perfect storm”.
A loss of experienced stewards as a result of the pandemic left Wembley’s stewarding operation vulnerable, while the police and other agencies were denied a key crowd management tool with the absence of fan zones.
The review found the Metropolitan Police made repeated requests to the government for such a zone to be set up.
FA ‘fully accept” review findings
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said the organisation apologised for the “terrible experience” many suffered within Wembley.
“We fully accept its findings and there are important learnings for us, as well as other agencies involved,” he added.
Baroness Carey made five recommendations for national consideration.
The first called on the government to consider a new category for matches of national significance, with enhanced security measures and stricter measures around the sale and consumption of alcohol.
It called for a review of stewarding, and for who is accountable in ‘Zone Ex’, the area immediately around the stadium, tougher penalties for individuals found guilty of football-related disorder and an FA campaign to bring about a “sea change” in attitudes among supporters.
A more joined-up approach between Wembley and the Metropolitan Police Service to managing public safety on match-days is among recommendations proposed to the FA, Wembley and key partners.
Bullingham added: “Collectively we must never allow this to happen again. Baroness Casey is clear that moving forwards, where there is an event of national significance, we and all agencies must view it through a different lens.”
The FA has already been sanctioned by UEFA over the disorder and must play their next home UEFA competition game behind closed doors, with a further match suspended, while they were also fined €100,000 (£84,560).
UK Sport has denied the disorder has irrecoverably damaged England’s possible bid to host the 2030 World Cup.