'Day of national shame' – Euro 2020 final chaos could have resulted in DEATHS from yob England fans, report finds
THE Euro 2020 Final carnage was a “day of national shame” that could have resulted in a major disaster and loss of life, an independent report has declared.
In findings that represent a massive rebuke of the FA and policing at Wembley, former Government drugs tsar Baroness Casey has catalogued a “series of very near misses” during the disgraceful scenes around the July 11 clash with Italy.
Thousands of ticketless fans broke through flimsy barricades to storm into Wembley, with some stewards accused of taking bribes to let them in.
The rampaging thugs even stormed the seating area set aside for the families of Gareth Southgate’s squad, with Harry Maguire’s father among those injured.
Shocked FA chiefs launched a probe and commissioned Baroness Casey, while Uefa imposed a one-match ban on home fans – to be served in the opening Nations League group match in June – and fined England £84,500.
And now the Casey report has laid bare the chaos and complicity of the day – while warning the FA and English football had a lucky escape from suffering one of the worst sporting disasters on record.
In her report, Casey slams the “reckless and dangerous behaviour” of the ticketless fans who massed outside Wembley before forcing their way into the ground.
She said the invasion “incidents followed widespread antisocial behaviour and lawlessness, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, near the stadium from midday onwards”.
Baroness Casey said: "We were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many, in attendance.
“That this should happen anywhere in 21st century Britain is a source of concern.
“That it should happen at our national stadium, and on the day of our biggest game of football for 55 years is a source of national shame."
Baroness Casey conceded the timing of the match, on a glorious Sunday afternoon as the country was emerging from the frustrations and restrictions of the Covid lockdown, represented a “perfect storm”.
But she ruled that the “shocking and unprecedented levels of criminal and anti-social behaviour” caught the FA and other authorities off-guard, with the police being called for reinforcement “too late”.
Some 2,000 fans without tickets forced their way into Wembley, with some “tailgating” behind legitimate supporters but others pouring through the 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors.
The report found “a collective failure” to rigorously assess the “foreseeable risk” of the scale of ticketless fans gathering at Wembley ahead of the match and that events “exposed weaknesses in Wembley’s security operation and the wider stewarding industry.”
Casey added: “The drunkenness, drug taking, irresponsibility, criminality, and abuse of innocent people – including staff, families, and disabled ticket holders – was shocking and intolerable.”
And even more terrifyingly, Casey argues that an England VICTORY, rather than defeat, in the shoot-out finale could have led to an ever more serious situation developing in a fraction of time.
The report added: “An England victory in the penalty shoot out would have created a further huge public safety risk, 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.”
Casey said: “The Euro 2020 final was a potentially glorious national occasion, a golden day in the history of this nation, that turned into a day of national shame.
“A team of role models which the whole country could be proud of, with a manager that stood up for the values we hold dear.
“However they were let down by a horde of 6,000 or more ticketless fans, many of whom were no more than mindless drunken and drugged up thugs who chose to abuse innocent, vulnerable and disabled people, as well as police officers, volunteers and Wembley staff.
“That created an appalling scene of disorder and came perilously close to putting lives at risk.
“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.
“One of the saddest parts of this process has been from FA staff.
“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.
“The outpouring of vile racist abuse that followed in the days after only made this worse. These men may wear England shirts but they can’t be allowed to represent us.
“What makes people believe that it is somehow acceptable to break into a stadium or abuse disabled entrances just because it is a big match or there are spare seats inside?
“Why on earth should black footballers be expected to continue to play for their country amid racist abuse from their own countrymen?”
The report criticises the lack of alternative fan zones around Wembley to “soak up” the crowd and says the combination of factors all contributed to the chaotic and dangerous scene.
But she accuses the FA and other authorities of “missed opportunities” to plan for the disturbances and respond to the warning signs even on the morning of the Final.
She pointed to the “gaps in intelligence gathering and consideration of how many ticketless fans would travel to Wembley on the day, how early they would arrive and how they might behave”.
These men may wear England shirts but they can’t be allowed to represent us."
Recommendations include stronger police powers against both the use of illegal drugs – believed to be primarily cocaine – and smoke bombs and flares at matches.
The report also calls for proper action and punishment for tailgating without a ticket and for those who set off fire alarms and so “recklessly endanger lives”.
But it also states a need for improvements in police control room operations, communication between the key partners of an event and better planning including a new category for football matches of national significance.
Baroness Casey added: “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.
“Nevertheless there are always lessons to be learned and it is right and commendable that the FA have commissioned this thorough review and have fully engaged with it, along with key partners including the Police and local council.
“No one was fully prepared for what happened that day and it can’t be allowed to happen again.
“That’s why I have made a series of recommendations to the FA, government and others.
“Because law abiding fans, our national team, and our national game deserve better.
“It is partly about what the FA and football can do to keep these people away from grounds.
“A national effort that truly kicks out racism and hooliganism from football and society at large would be a fitting tribute to that England team, and all those of us who love our national game and our country for the right reasons.”
In response, Wembley chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “The FA for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game.
“We fully accept the findings. Everyone at The FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder throughout the day on 11 July.
“The Review makes clear that the circumstances leading up to the match led to a perfect storm of lawlessness.
“No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans but collectively we must never allow this to happen again.”
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