Lives could have been lost were it not for “a series of very near misses” at the Euro 2020 final as England’s “drunken and drugged-up thugs” made it “a day of national shame”. And a “perfect storm” of factors leading to the mayhem – COVID-19 restrictions coupled with the euphoria of England reaching its first major final since 1966 – would have become a lot worse if England had beaten Italy that night.
Those are some of the key findings of a report by Baroness Louise Casey commissioned by the FA into events around the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on July 11.
The behaviour of the “most aggressive and disorderly crowd Wembley had ever seen” bears the “prime responsibility” for what unfolded.
Nevertheless, the authorities are also blamed for a “collective failure” to recognise “foreseeable” developments.
Baroness Casey concluded that Metropolitan Police were deployed too late to restore order around Wembley and that planning overall did not recognise the importance of the occasion.
As a result, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham subsequently apologised for “the terrible experience that many experienced within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game”.
The independent 129-page report found that 2,000 ticketless fans gained entry to Wembley by squeezing through turnstiles behind ticketed supporters or through one of 17 life-threatening mass breaches of disabled access gates and fire exits.
Stadium staff were praised for their “great courage in the face of appalling aggression” and credited with making “a number of potentially life-saving and split-second decisions”.
However, the stewarding levels overall were insufficient as authorities failed to plan for the “foreseeable risk” of ticketless fans gathering outside the stadium.
The report also revealed that around 6,000 more ticketless fans were poised to storm the gates at the end of the match to join the celebrations if England had won the penalty shoot-out.
Baroness Casey, who has advised five Prime Ministers on a number of social issues, said: “Our team of role models were in our first major final for 55 years.
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“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 creating an appalling scene of disorder and coming perilously close to putting lives at risk.
“We need to take the toughest possible action against people who think a football match is somehow an excuse to behave like that.”
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Her main recommendations include establishing a new category of “football matches of national significance” with a full review of stewarding.
This is to include clear agreement on who is accountable for “Zone Ex”, the public space around stadiums where fans gather.
She also wants the FA to lead a national campaign to bring about a “sea-change” in fan behaviour and the government to strengthen penalties for football-related disorder.
In October, after a separate investigation, UEFA fined the FA £84,560 and ordered England to play two competitive games behind closed doors, one of those games being suspended.