Euro 2020: ‘Random attacks on Italians’ at end of worst ever tournament for crime, police say

Exclusive: National lead for football policing says Italians celebrating Euros win were targeted in ‘far too many’ incidents

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 13 July 2021 18:14
Scuffle appears to break out between paying fans and ticketless at Wembley

England fans launched “random attacks on Italians” after the final of the Euro 2020 tournament, police have said.

Forces across the country are still collating figures on the number of incidents targeting supporters of Italy, who won the tournament on penalties.

More than 2,300 police incidents linked to the Euros have so far been recorded, surpassing the 2018 World Cup to make it the worst football tournament on record for crime.

They include stabbings, glassings, fights and assaults on police officers, with at least 622 people arrested so far in England and Wales.

Cheshire Constabulary chief constable Mark Roberts, who is the national lead for football policing, told The Independent: “We have seen random attacks on Italians ... Italians celebrating the win have been attacked.

“We haven’t seen massive numbers but there have been far too many. We do see these incidents when England get knocked out of tournaments in terms of the targeting of foreign nationals.”

Several fans who spoke to The Independent reported hearing xenophobic abuse targeting Italians inside Wembley stadium, including a man who was branded a “traitor” by an England supporter for letting an Italian fan put rubbish in a bin.

“I heard so much xenophobia,” said another fan who did not want to be named. “It was just a horrible, scummy experience.”

It follows the abuse and intimidation of Danish fans during the semi-final, and wider questions about security at Wembley.

An FA investigation is underway into the circumstances leading up to major disorder as the stadium was stormed by ticketless England supporters on Sunday.

Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against the Football Association (FA) on Tuesday and said it was conducting a separate investigation into the “events involving supporters inside and around the stadium”.

The charges against the FA include pitch invasion, the throwing of objects, disturbance during Italy’s national anthem and fireworks.

Mr Roberts said there had been “significant disorder all around the country” during the tournament.

“The 2018 World Cup in Russia was the worst we had seen, but sadly this tournament surpassed that,” he added.

“The levels of violence shown against officers has been completely unacceptable.”

The senior officer who has previously overseen the policing of tournaments held abroad and been responsible for the Old Trafford football stadium, said the Euros had been affected by a “dangerous combination” of factors after coronavirus restrictions were eased.

Mr Roberts said that police forces across the country have been reporting increases in anti-social behaviour and violence linked to reopened pubs and bars.

He added that the level of alcohol and drug abuse in the hours before the final at Wembley was “very significant”, adding: “Sunday was a coming together of a series of factors which exacerbated what is happening generally.

“It’s sad because so much of it has been positive and the hope was that the weekend would be a showcase for England.

“The result was disappointing but that’s sport. Some of the other stuff around it has been a lot more disappointing.”

England fans go wild at Wembley stadium ahead of England v Denmark semi-final

Police figures show that the number of football-related incidents during the Euro 2020 final – 875 – was more than double that seen during any previous tournament match.

Almost 500 happened in licenced premises, such as pubs, and there were 246 arrests in total.

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) has also launched an investigation into racial abuse targeting players, Mr Roberts said.

“We have had excellent support during the tournament from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and enquiries are already being progressed,” he added.

“When an offender's details are identified, this is passed onto the relevant local force to investigate further and take appropriate action in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service.”

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