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Damning report calls out ‘national shame’ of Euro 2020 final chaos at Wembley

At the Spanish Steps checkpoint, ticketless fans surge forward in a lawless attempt to burst past outnumbered stewards.

The queue and the barriers collapse under the pressure. At the front of the 100-strong pile, the tangle is four-high. A young boy, wearing a white T-shirt for what should be the best day of his life, manages to crawl free. Moments later his little body, overwhelmed by the impact, contorts into a seizure.

At a nearby turnstile, a man in a high-visibility jacket snatches the wheelchair of a child from his father and pushes it towards the disabled entrance. The parent thinks he is a steward — it is only when he gets to the door that he realises what is going on. The man is not a steward, he is just an England ‘fan’ without a ticket who will steal someone’s disabled child to try to break into the stadium.

Huge crowds gathered outside Wembley, including many without tickets, before the final

A new report into the fan trouble at the Euro 2020 final has found 6,000 more supporters were ready to storm Wembley had England beaten Italy in the penalty shootout

A new report into the fan trouble at the Euro 2020 final has found 6,000 more supporters were ready to storm Wembley had England beaten Italy in the penalty shootout  

This is England — July 11, 2021 — the day when Wembley descended into anarchy. On Friday, almost five months after the shameful scenes which marred the European Championship final, Baroness Casey’s much-awaited report was published. While what happened — thousands of drug- and booze-fuelled thugs stormed the national stadium — was widely reported at the time, it turned out we did not know the half of it.

One of the main takeaways from the FA-commissioned review is that, while this was one of English football’s darkest days, it could have been much, much worse.

With Gareth Southgate’s men five penalties away from their first major trophy since 1966, no fewer than 6,000 of the baying mob, unable to follow 2,000 thugs who had earlier stormed 17 disabled entrances in a ‘predatory fashion’ in what one council official described as ‘a medieval siege’, were waiting outside. Had England won the shoot-out, they were ready to pour in when the gates were opened at full-time.

Crowd safety expert Eric Stuart summed it up. ‘The prospect of a surging, ingressing drunken crowd in the event of an England victory at the same time as the crowd is egressing is a frightening one,’ he wrote.  

A group of football fans storm through the security barriers at Wembley as stewards desperately try to hold them back ahead of the European Championships final at Wembley

A group of football fans storm through the security barriers at Wembley as stewards desperately try to hold them back ahead of the European Championships final at Wembley

One London emergency services official said they believed it would have been ‘horrific’ had Southgate’s men prevailed, and that a ‘major incident’ would have been declared. ‘We would have been on our knees,’ they added.

Casey went further. ‘We were close to fatalities,’ she wrote. ‘That it should happen at our national stadium on the day of our biggest game of football for 55 years is a source of national shame.’

The deplorable behaviour of the lawless hordes is rightly highlighted as the main factor for what transpired. But there are also disgraceful derelictions of duty from those who were meant to keep law-abiding fans safe.

Twelve hours before the 8pm kick-off, fans had begun to congregate and drink heavily. Incredibly, the Met Police plan was for officers to turn up at 3pm. By then, seven hours later, thousands were already within the shadows of the stadium. Already smashed, already intent on getting in. Control was not lost, it was never taken.

‘Some of what happened was sadly foreseeable,’ wrote Casey, highlighting ‘a collective failure by organisations involved in planning the final to rigorously assess and mitigate the foreseeable risk of the scale of ticketless fans gathering’.

Fists fly: Ticketless fans got into altercations with others as they barged into the stadium

Fists fly: Ticketless fans got into altercations with others as they barged into the stadium

The layout of Wembley, and the ability of those without tickets to get close to the stadium, was also examined. It turns out a stomach-churning bureaucratic row over who was responsible for the area on Olympic Way was ‘a contributing factor’, with police and stadium operators at odds.

Some have wondered if the national stadium is fit for purpose and whether it is even possible to introduce a ‘ring of steel’ around the venue, given it is surrounded by bars, restaurants, hotels and shops. Speaking following the review’s publication, FA chief Mark Bullingham apologised for their role in the debacle.

‘The key is not letting that area get out of control,’ he said. ‘We were faced with an impossible set of circumstances.

‘We think it is possible to put in place an outer security perimeter…we will do it differently in future.’

Speaking to journalists, crossbench peer Casey sent out a powerful message. ‘If we are a country that can’t get a grip of our fans, we have a problem and that’s what needs to be dealt with,’ she said. ‘There is something here about our national game that seems to be a vehicle for thuggery, hooliganism and racism and I would like to see Euro Sunday as a turning point.’

It is to be hoped that is the case.

A mass of England fans outside the stadium pushed at the ticket barriers ahead of the match

A mass of England fans outside the stadium pushed at the ticket barriers ahead of the match

Police form a line in front of the Wembley as thousands of fans descend upon the scene

Police form a line in front of the Wembley as thousands of fans descend upon the scene 

With no police in sight, stewards try in vain to force them back but scores barge their way in

With no police in sight, stewards try in vain to force them back but scores barge their way in 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk