Euro 2020: fan chaos at Wembley could have led to deaths says independent review leader

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott on the 'unacceptable scenes of disorder' when fans stormed Wembley during the Euro 2020 final

The behaviour of some fans the Euro 2020 final at Wembley could have led to deaths the leader of an independent review into the incident has said.

Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock told ITV News that England came extremely close to a national tragedy when a ticketless mob of 2,000 people broke into the stadium on July 11."The fan behaviour was terrifying, not terrible," she told ITV News. 

'The scenes of disorder were horrific'

The review also found an England win against Italy could have led to 6,000 individuals without tickets storming Wembley with “horrific” consequences.

It identified a series of “near-misses” which could have resulted in the serious injuries or deaths. Baroness Casey described the violence at Wembley as "a day of national shame".

The Metropolitan Police said it is “deeply sorry” that so many people faced “unacceptable scenes of disorder”.

Commander Rachel Williams of the Metropolitan Police said the Euro 2020 final was a “moment of national significance … tarnished by groups of ticketless, anti-social and thuggish football fans”, adding: “We regret that we were not able to do more to prevent those scenes unfolding.”

What are the key points from Baroness Casey's review?

The Met said it supports the recommendations laid out in Baroness Casey’s independent review and "will work with partners in delivering them".

It praised officers and stewarding staff in the face of "unprecedented challenges" and "unacceptable levels of violence".

The review said there had been a collective failure by all the organisations involved in planning for the final to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

What happened on the evening of July 11?

Around 2,000 ticketless individuals were found to have gained entry to Wembley, with 400 of those ejected, but a dire situation could have been made much worse by an England victory, multiple contributors to the review said.

A ticketless group of 6,000 were believed to be preparing to storm the stadium as legitimate ticket-holders were trying to leave.

One individual even impersonated a steward and hijacked a disabled child in a wheelchair, separating him from his father in an attempt to gain entry to the stadium.

Watch as fans breach security, rush past stewards and up stairs at Wembley

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.

The official added: “I can guarantee that we would have been on our knees.”

An official from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority told the review: “Thank God England lost. If they had won you would have to open the doors to let people out and the stadium would have been stormed.”

An FA official recalled individuals being stood like “zombies”, not even watching the game on their phones, waiting to get in.

Ticketless individuals were found to have gained entry by tailgating or involvement in one of 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors identified by the review, which “jeopardised the lives of legitimate supporters and staff”.

The breaches stretched from 90 minutes before kick-off up to the penalty shoot-out, the review found, with disabled supporters particularly affected.

Fans tear down barricades as they breach security and enter Wembley

All agencies responsible for staging the final had been caught off-guard, the review found, with police deployed too late.

“I am clear that we were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many, in attendance,” Baroness Casey concluded.

“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 compared the potential loss of life to the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 where 97 Liverpool fans died in a fatal crush at the FA Cup Semi Final that year. "We were seconds away from a Hillsborough-type disaster in terms of potential fatalities and life changing injuries". Baroness Casey later issued a statement to clarify that comparison saying; "I was not in any way suggesting the fans at Hillsborough were to blame, but that there was a severe crowd safety risk at a major football match 31 years after Hillsborough; that there is a need to protect all genuine and law-abiding football fans; and that there can be no room for complacency in how we respond to these events."

The review of the Euro 2020 Final found the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, along with England’s first appearance in a major final since 1966, had created a “perfect storm”.

It said the absence of a fan zone contributed to the chaos and would have acted as “a much-needed pressure valve”. The review found the Metropolitan Police made repeated requests to the government for such a zone to be set up.

Violence breaks out inside Wembley Stadium

Witnesses to the review said as well as alcohol, cocaine use was widespread and the drug was being taken “in plain sight”.

What needs to change?

Baroness Casey made five general recommendations.

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 involvement in football-related disorder and an FA campaign to bring about a “sea change” in attitudes among supporters.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said his organisation fully accepted the findings and he apologised for the “terrible experience” many suffered within Wembley.

“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. Collectively we must never allow this to happen again.

England fans outside the ground during the UEFA Euro 2020 Final at Wembley Stadium

“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.

“I would like to thank everyone who worked at the match that day. Many people went well above and beyond their roles and performed their duties with courage and determination. This was often at personal risk to themselves.

“The lessons learned from this Review will ensure that fans have a good experience at major international events at Wembley, as they have for many years.”

The FA has already been sanctioned by UEFA in relation to the disorder, with supporters banned from their next home UEFA competition match.