England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy could have been called off without the quick thinking actions of police at Wembley, one of Scotland Yard’s most senior officers has claimed.
The Metropolitan Police came under fire after thousands of ticketless thugs breached security at Wembley and forced their way into the stadium.
But in a robust defence of the force’s handling of the event, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, has claimed the match only went ahead because officers quickly managed to get the situation under control.
Ms Connors rejected accusations the Met had failed, insisting the event had involved one of the most "significant and comprehensive policing plans" ever deployed for a football match in this country.
Huge numbers of fans, some without tickets, descended on Wembley
She said: "In Wembley, soon into the day it became clear that a high number of fans were arriving without tickets.
“Police commanders recognised this could result in ticketless fans attempting to get into the stadium, they updated security officials at Wembley of this risk.
"To support the stewarding efforts, further highly trained public order officers were deployed to Wembley Stadium as a precaution.
“Soon after gates opened, the stewarding and outer security perimeter became overwhelmed and fans began pushing through security checks.
"I want to praise the quick response by police commanders and those brave officers who confronted these subsequent scenes of disorder and violence.
“I am in no doubt that their swift action prevented any further escalation. Frustratingly, 19 of our officers were injured during the course of Sunday’s policing operation when confronting volatile crowds.
“I do not accept that the policing operation failed and I stand by the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met’s public order commanders. Without their immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned."
The Met has said the events at Wembley will now be reviewed by the Football Association and senior officers and lessons will be learnt.
Speaking at an investiture at St James’ Palace as she was made a Dame Commander, Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner insisted she was proud of her officers.
Cressida Dick was made a Dame Commander during a ceremony at St James's Palace
She said: "There will be a full debrief of course, there’s an awful lot of inaccurate speculation about what happened at the moment.
"I’m very proud of my officers and the command team."
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh also hit back, saying the stewarding arrangements at Wembley had been insufficient.
Mr Marsh said it had been clear by 8am on Sunday that more people were in the vicinity of Wembley than had tickets, but warnings to officials had been ignored.
He said: "Wembley is a private premises. We do not police private premises. We used to police within Premiership games at Wembley etc, and they had to start paying for it.
"They didn’t want to pay the money that was required, so they brought in private security companies.
"When you take the game that took place on Sunday, by the time we had it brought to our attention that several thousand people were trying to force their way in it was too late for us, because we were the wrong side of them and unable to repel them from doing so.
"We had flagged this up previously because there were far too many people within the area of Wembley for an 8pm kick off.
"There were tens of thousands floating about, it was unprecedented numbers. By the time it was brought to our attention then it was too late."