Euro 2020 final: Police admit they were caught out by England fans storming Wembley

Labour says incursion ‘raises serious questions about security and policing of major events’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 12 July 2021 18:53 BST
England fans 'break through security' at Wembley ahead of the Euro 2020 final

The Metropolitan Police has admitted it was caught out by football fans who stormed Wembley before the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy.

An unknown number of supporters without tickets forced their way through security barriers around the UK’s largest stadium, overpowering stewards.

Ticket-holders and onlookers condemned the chaotic scenes, which were followed by reports of intimidation and violence as the intruders claimed booked seats.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor admitted that the Metropolitan Police had not expected so many people to arrive at Wembley without tickets.

“We spent a lot of time encouraging and asking people not to turn up if they hadn't got a ticket prior to the event, and clearly a lot of people chose to ignore us,” he said.

“I don't think anybody was expecting large numbers of people to try and incur into the stadium.

“As soon as it became clear that was happening, stewards reacted very quickly and police were deployed to the stadium to prevent the situation from becoming worse.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary said the government must ensure lessons are learned from the incident, which is subject to an official review.

“Ultimately the responsibility for the disorder lies with the appalling actions of people who tried to storm their way into the stadium, putting people’s safety at risk,” Nick Thomas-Symonds added.

“However, these worrying events also raise serious questions about security and policing of major events.”

Mr Taylor said a “considerable number” of fans forced their way inside Wembley, although he was not able to estimate how many.

“As part of our post-event investigation, we will be looking into all criminality and we will be looking to bring offenders of any crime to justice - that may include football banning orders as well as criminal justice prosecutions.”

At least 86 people have been arrested over football-related disorder in London on Sunday, including 53 at Wembley.

A total of 19 police officers were injured, including one who suffered broken bones in their hand, while another lost a tooth.

Fans rushed through barriers at Wembley stadium before the Euro 2020 final (Screengrab)

Senior police officers had previously described England celebrations, which have violated coronavirus laws restricting gatherings in some cases, as mostly “good-natured” and said they were fully prepared for the final.

Planners believed that the chance of violence was lower because travel restrictions reduced the number of opposing fans in the capital.

Witnesses to the disorder reported seeing few police officers outside Wembley stadium, and questioned the lack of outer security cordons to keep out ticketless fans.

Scotland Yard insisted it had a “large scale policing operation” in place and said it appealed for people without tickets not to travel to Wembley.

“Officers, including those from the Mounted Branch and the dog unit, worked with Wembley stadium officials and stewards to respond quickly to any outbreaks of anti-social behaviour and disorder, to ensure those with tickets could access the stadium,” a statement said.

“Just before the match started, a group of people did breach an outer perimeter security cordon and gain entry into the stadium without a ticket. Officers worked quickly to identify these people and to assist with ejecting them from the stadium.”

The Football Association (FA) has said it will conduct a full review into how people without tickets were able to breach security - at a time when the terror threat in England remains “substantial”.

Chief executive Mark Bullingham told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We will do a full review and we will work with the police to catch anyone involved and make sure we can prevent it ever happening again.

‘Stewards check fans tickets at Wembley (Reuters)

“Anyone caught will obviously be banned and have the right action taken against them.”

He blamed “drunken yobs” for forcing their way in, and added: “We run a stadium, not a fortress. We have got a fantastic security team at the stadium and they had never seen anything like it.”

He apologised to supporters whose experience had been affected as a result of the security breach.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, welcomed the review and called isolated outbreaks of violence and disorder “appalling”.

“It is disappointing that such an exciting and historic occasion was marred by a small minority,” he added.

“This behaviour is unacceptable, is not reflective of true fans, and has no place in our city. The police and FA have my full support in taking action against anyone who is identified to have illegally forced their way into Wembley stadium or been behind the violent scenes witnessed after the match.”

The end of the tournament was also marred by racism towards some England players, including those who took penalties in a tense shoot-out that ended in victory for Italy.

Mr Taylor said the Metropolitan Police would pursue reports of “abhorrent” hate crimes, whether committed in person or online.

He added: “We have launched a post-event investigation and will actively pursue and investigate offenders and criminal offences.

“This behaviour is not welcome in London and I urge anyone who is being subjected to any abuse, both online and in person, to contact police and report it so the police can investigate thoroughly and accordingly.”

Additional reporting by PA

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