Wembley Euro disorder report | Professional Security


Wembley Stadium and its owners the Football Association should make stronger plans for safety, physical and human, ahead of any matches or events of significant risk. That is among the recommendations of the review by Baroness Casey, of the disorder before, during and after the Euro 2020 football championship final, that England lost to Italy on penalties after extra time, on Sunday, July 11.

Those plans should include the physical fences and means of separating and filtering unticketed fans from those with legitimate access; ways of ensuring ‘those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others’; a staff survey of all those involved with security, stewarding and safety on the Sunday so the FA can be doubly sure their views are taken into any future changes; and security plans should be regularly peer reviewed by experienced safety and security professionals ‘to ensure rigour’.

In the small print of a second part of the report, the partner of an England footballer recalled the 2017 terror attack at Manchester Arena; ‘and when I saw people going through with bags unchecked I thought it’s not safe. I couldn’t believe how lax the security was’. Drugs and alcohol fuelled the ‘shocking disorder seen outside Wembley Stadium, a fan survey suggests; and ‘the policing and stewarding operation fell short’.

In a foreword, Casey says that the day was ‘spoiled by a horde of 6,000 or more ticketless fans, many of whom were no more than mindless thugs’. She also covers the ‘outpouring of vile racist abuse that followed in the days after’, against some England players who failed to net penalties.

She describes the incident as a ‘near miss’. She writes: “I am clear that 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. I want to be very clear from the outset that responsibility for that risk to human life lies with the individuals without tickets – nearly all men, it has to be said – who attacked the stadium, successfully or otherwise. The drunkenness, drug taking, irresponsibility, criminality, and abuse of innocent people – including staff, families, and disabled ticket holders – was shocking and intolerable. I hope the police and other authorities continue to prosecute as many of the perpetrators as possible and the courts and football authorities apply the toughest possible punishments.”

Nevertheless, she adds; some of what happened was sadly foreseeable, even if the scale of it was not. As a further sign that the disorder was a safety issue, and that the hooliganism has long cultural antecedents, she writes that Hillsborough in 1989 – when 96 fans were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final – ‘weighed heavily on my mind. As Lord Justice Taylor said in his report on that tragedy, “Amazingly, complacency was still to be found even after Hillsborough.” I am encouraged that no one interviewed for this review was complacent about what happened. But we cannot allow for any complacency to set in now.’

You can download the full, 127-page report from the FA website. Also downloadable is a report by the leading event security man Eric Stuart, of Gentian Events. He concludes that many more injuries probably occurred than were reported. He seconds Casey’s view that the day though without crush or other fatalities was a ‘near miss’.

One example of thoughtless preparations – bearing in mind the mass disorder in Manchester at the UEFA final in 2008, and around the England-Scotland group match earlier in the summer tournament – set out by Stuart is ‘The Totem’, a ‘dressed’ sponsorship partial arch on West Olympic Way, that fell. Stuart describes it as ‘surprising’ it did not cause any serious injury. As a sign of how out of control the event went from the authorities, Stuart writes that ‘it is unlikely we will ever know the true extent of the number and nature of all of the injuries’.

Like Casey, he also mentions how those inside had in many cases suffered an unpleasant arrival experience who after England’s defeat ‘now faced real challenges returning home with the diminishing number of trains available’. Stuart points out that ticketless fans may have sought a social media ‘selfie’ had England lifted the trophy: “The prospect of a surging, ingressing and intoxicated due to drugs and alcohol, crowd in the event of England victory at the same time as the crowd is egressing is a frightening one.”

He writes of ‘a significant threat to life on the day of the final’ and highlights how the Wembley staff, safety officer, stadium director and stewards on the ground were left in ‘an unenviable position’ by the behaviour of many. “The decisions made by the safety officer for Wembley to establish ‘Fortress’ mode and lock the doors, whilst at other times increasing exit door strengths, were high risk and exceptionally brave. Had these decisions not been taken, it is likely that hundreds or even thousands more, would have entered the stadium with ever more dangerous scenarios unfolding inside. But had these decisions resulted in further injuries or worse outside, I have no doubt severe criticism would have been made of the decision makers.”

The former West Midlands Police investigator Jason Moseley used CCTV footage and detailed the ‘potentially dangerous crowd scenarios’ outside and at the Stadium that day. Three major breaches are featured: two at about 6.45pm; and one at about 7.40pm (that is, before kick-off at 8pm). The first was, due to an internal disabled entrance door being forced from outside, saw people ‘forced to the floor and trampled underfoot’ by crowds behind. The other two were via a fire exit door opened from inside deliberately.

Among his conclusions, he writes of ’17 major breaches’, and about ‘430 sporadic and individual breaches of the turnstiles by ticketless people tail-gating or rushing turnstiles’. He notes that ‘large groups of people were going from turnstile to turnstile attempting to gain entry in mass numbers. They only left one turnstile when efforts were thwarted and then moved quickly on to another nearby turnstile’.

He finds that internal security made a ‘timely response’ as people unlawfully breached the turnstiles (by ‘tailgating’); if those who had entered illegally through a disabled entrance were ejected, that caused a secondary problem, as people outside saw this as an opportunity to force entry. Security staff within the inner turnstile areas ejected 400-plus people who had gained entry by tailgating or rushing the turnstile. Staffing at the fire doors and other internal doors was not consistent, which provided opportunities for ticketless people to enter unlawfully, through other people forcing the doors or opening them from the inside.

Casey meanwhile suggests a new legal offence of ‘endangering public safety in a stadium through reckless behaviour’, such as interfering with emergency doors, triggering fire alarms or damaging barriers and other safety infrastructure, with penalties comparable to those for endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Last but not least, social media is studied, by data science company Signify. While sites such as Twitter were ‘not a useful organising platform’, posts on the day included ‘Fair play to those lads heading down to Wembley today to try and jib in’ – that is, encouragement but not practical advice on how to gate-crash. While the study concludes that public social media was not used to organise or incite disorder ‘to a significant extent’, from previous Euro matches it shows that ‘social media platforms played a role in exacerbating the events at Wembley, since the worst behaviour and the most shocking clips tended to go viral quickly, and social media feeds quickly filled with distressing images’, such as flares let off.

Most fans are repelled by lawless, drunken and disorderly behaviour, online and offline (typically calling the offenders ‘barbarians’ and ’embarrassing’), the study adds. As an aside: Signify have become involved in protection of footballers, politicians and other high profile individuals from online abuse and have developed a software product, Threat Matrix, that detects, flags and helps to moderate online abuse. That was echoed by the survey of England ticketed fans, which ‘found broad fan support for tough measures to clamp down on disorder’.

An academic authority on carnivalesque football hooliganism, Prof Geoff Pearson, gives his opinions. How foreseeable or otherwise was it that England fans would travel to Wembley without tickets ahead of the Euro 2020 Final? Pearson answers, ‘inevitable’, and ‘in the tens of thousands’ in London, given such precedents as Manchester in 2008, although adding that ‘such ticketless gatherings do not mean that a “mass jib” or major crowd disorder is either inevitable or likely’.

As for ‘the foreseeability or otherwise of attempts by ticketless England fans to enter Wembley Stadium on the day of the Euro 2020 Final’; Pearson argues that to enter the stadium without paying (“jibbing”) has many precedents, such as the the 1986 FA Cup Final. And ‘the risk factors were all known in advance’. And as for how foreseeable was disorder among England fan outside Wembley, Pearson points out that by ‘late afternoon it should have become clear that there would be a problem with the ticketless fans remaining in the crowd because there is nowhere available for them to watch the match’; and that – again given football history – it was ‘highly probable that there would be persistent, if low-level, anti-social behaviour in the environs of Wembley throughout the day, and that this would get worse as the day progressed, the crowd increased, and individuals became more intoxicated’.

As for what, if any measures could have prevented disorder, Pearson notes from CCTV stills that ‘police were almost completely absent from within the crowd at all stages during the day’; Pearson’s research has included how police can and should liaise with crowds, whether fans or protesters, to manage conflict. He describes late deployment of officers and the failure to engage with fans as the crowd was building as looking like ‘a significant failure in the policing operation’.

As for whether police could have dispersed the crowd pressing against the outer security cordon, and in particular at the foot of the Olympic Steps, by 6pm (that is, two hours ahead of kick-off, before most fans with tickets were inside) outside ‘had become too dense and unruly to safely deploy officers into or to try and disperse’. Pearson concludes that police were ‘put in a very difficult position’; ‘once the crowd had become disorderly, bottle throwing had started, and crushes were starting to develop, there was little’ the police could do, ‘other than establish a protective cordon’ around the stadium.

As for the security cordon, Pearson writes that ‘mass breaches of the perimeter around the time of the national anthem show that the cordon at the foot of the Olympic Steps was not fit-for-purpose’. Temporary, waist-high, crowd-control barriers are not designed to prevent crowd incursions and had been shown to be ineffective during the anti-Glazer protests by (peaceful) Manchester United fans outside Old Trafford, earlier in the year.

A UEFA survey of registered ticket holders reports much drunkenness on the day from morning onwards, on London Underground and more so nearer to Wembley. Most, 68 per cent of fans reported witnessing antisocial behaviour on the day; and ‘drug taking as well as aggressive and violent intimidation of others’. One fan responding to the survey wrote of others occupying the seats of the ticketed and ‘snorting cocaine off their hands in the stands’.

Again, most, 74 per cent, reported a lower policing and security presence ‘than they expected for a game of this magnitude’. A ‘small bubble of Italian fans’ and families of England players, had to self-police. One of the ‘might have beens’ cropped up in the survey – an absence of security checks and searches ‘raised fears of a potential terror attack and the prospect of weapons entering the ground’.

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