Unprecedented criminal behaviour at Wembley combined with authorities’ "collective failure to foresee risk" caused the Euro 2020 final to become a warzone, a landmark report has ruled.
Scotland Yard faces severe criticism for implementing full policing operation hours later than needed in Baroness Casey’s 129-page report, which explores how "our biggest game of football for 55 years" became "a source of national shame".
Her four-and-a-half month investigation concludes that the FA and Met Police were lucky there were no fatalities, given "some of what happened was sadly foreseeable, even if the scale of it was not".
"The events at Hillsborough in 1989 have weighed heavily on my mind," she concludes.
In the most definitive account of thousands of ticketless thugs storming England’s first major final since 1966, Casey uncovered horrific accounts from disabled fans, women and relatives of England players.
In one incident a child wheelchair user was snatched from their father and used to gain entry by a criminal masquerading as a steward.
Mark Bullingham, the Football Association’s chief executive, has issued an immediate apology "for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night".
In a scathing assessment of the events of July 11, the independent review commissioned by the FA found:
- "Although action was stepped up for the final there was an absence of risk assessment for the occasion that Euro Sunday represented" and that "this amounted to a collective failure by partners involved."
- 2,000 ticketless fans stormed Wembley via 17 different entry points, with only 400 ejected. 6,000 more were waiting outside to storm Wembley when doors opened at the final whistle.
- The main police operation began at 3pm but Brent Council employees and Underground workers were already reporting unprecedented levels of drunkenness by 9am. Almost half of respondents to a fan survey saw drug-taking in and around the ground.
- No individual authorities performed worse than any other amid a "perfect storm". "One of the things that has come through strongest is that no single agency was to blame for what occurred," Casey writes. "There was a collective failure to foresee risk."
As a result of the report released today Government, Brent Council, Met Police and the FA are all under fire, and the Home Office faces calls to beef up laws on drug use at football matches.
Recommendations following Wembley chaos review
Ticketless fans preyed on disabled supporters
Among the most horrifying accounts, Casey detailed how thugs were "targeting fans with disabilities".
"Disturbingly, it is clear that ticketless fans targeted disabled supporters in a predatory fashion near the turnstiles," she writes. "In one appalling incident, a ticketless fan tried to impersonate a steward and hijack a disabled child and separated him from his father, in order to trick his way through a pass gate," the report found.
The father told the review: “He’s then taken [my son’s] wheelchair and pushed it towards the door…Just as we got to the door we twigged what was going on and it turned out he’s just an England fan in a high-viz jacket that was literally hijacking a wheelchair to get into the stadium.”
Drunk and drugged fans caused alarm at 9am
The investigation reveals that the alarm had been raised as early as 9.02am, when one council official alerted colleagues, FA and Wembley managers, the police and other local partners via WhatsApp: “Talking to fans…none with tickets, just here for the occasion. Might be a big feature of the day.”
By midday, an estimated 10,000 fans had already arrived in the Wembley area. Transport staff were staggered by the levels of drunken behaviour.
"I’ve been doing this for over a decade and have worked on various other celebratory events, including New Year’s Eve. I have never seen drunkenness like this so early on in the day," one London Underground official said. “I remember walking into the control room about nine o’clock, and there were England fans drinking as I walked in. And it was really, really early on and the alcohol was flowing. And I thought, ‘this is going to be a hard day’. I felt it was going to be really challenging."
Report hears of ‘children cowering behind parents’
As part of the review, a survey of misbehaviour among fans "suggests illegal-drug taking must have been widespread and taken place in plain sight".
"More than 3,500 respondents (47 per cent) said they saw illegal drug-taking when they arrived at Wembley," the report found. One review respondent said it was "like a warzone, never seen anything like it. Vandalism, yob behaviour, broken glass, glass being thrown, highly drunk people, very horrible atmosphere for a lone female. Police barely seen.”
Another added: “I witnessed bottles and cans being thrown at people, children cowering behind parents to hide, trees being ripped up and thrown, climbing on roofs and throwing things into the crowds."
Amid the chaos, staff were forced to stop checking Covid tests for around 40 minutes. The report found the Met Police had seen this problem coming, having "raised concerns about Covid-19 checks creating a risk of public order problems with the Wembley Safety Advisory Group ahead of the final".
Casey added that it was "difficult not to conclude that the events of 11 July, while clearly appalling, could very easily have been far worse, leading to serious injuries or even fatalities".
Violence would have been worse had England won
Casey’s report is also critical of the decision to not have fan zones due to Covid-19 laws at the time. "The day of the final (“Euro Sunday”) represented a perfect storm with Covid-19 regulations and the impact of the pandemic combining with national euphoria at the England men’s team reaching its first final since 1966," she found.
"Shocking and unprecedented levels of criminal and anti-social behaviour" were evident from very early in the day, "which caught all agencies off guard and meant the police deployment arrived too late", she added.
"There was a collective failure by organisations involved in planning the Euro 2020 final to rigorously assess and mitigate the foreseeable risk of the scale of ticketless fans gathering at Wembley ahead of the match.
"While many stadium staff acted with great courage in the face of appalling aggression, and made a number of potentially life-saving and split-second decisions, the final exposed weaknesses in Wembley’s security operation and the wider stewarding industry".
The scenes would have been even worse had England won, the report adds. "Victory in the penalty shoot-out would have created a further huge public safety risk, with up to 6,000 ticketless fans waiting to storm the stadium at the same time as doors were being opened to allow other fans to leave," Casey writes.
"Overall, there was a lack of recognition that the final was more than a football match to be managed – it was an occasion of national significance."
‘Police planned for wrong risks’
Criticism of the Met Police surrounds the assumption that the majority of fan misbehaviour would take place after the game.
"With the benefit of hindsight, the police planned for the wrong risks: disorder after the match, rather than first thing in the morning," she wrote. "As a result, officers were deployed too late in the day to provide a visible uniformed presence and set the tone as fans started arriving and gathering in large numbers in the morning. By the time officers were on the ground, the area around Olympic Way was already effectively ‘lost’, with significant levels of anti-social behaviour occurring, fueled by alcohol and drug-consumption."
How the violence at Wembley unfolded
Describing a "near miss" in terms of potential fatalities, she added: "The lack of large fan zones at capacity and also the vast reduction in opportunities for fans to eat and drink near Wembley played a huge role in what happened that day."
The FA and Met Police must agree on who is in overall control of Zone Ex, an area immediately outside the stadium which became a "street party" from 9am, she added.
"There is an ongoing question around who is responsible for public safety in Zone Ex, as well as the loss of experienced public order teams since 2010, are also significant," Casey said. "These urgently need to be resolved."
Casey said afterwards that she was not looking for a scapegoat.
"[The] review also wishes to put on record that the police took action around the stadium with considerable skill and courage, stabilising the situation shortly after kick-off, and ensuring the match was able to progress," she added. The FA said in response that it "will fully accept the findings".
Review could force changes in security law
Casey was commissioned by the FA in the immediate aftermath of the tournament.
The “perfect storm” of factors, which she said were to blame, included "Covid-19 restrictions and the release from lockdown; England progressing to the final; spare seats being available in the stadium; and the lack of alternative venues including fan zones to ‘soak up’ the crowd". Those factors "all contributed to the chaotic and dangerous scenes on the day", she added.
However, she adds that there were "gaps in intelligence gathering and consideration of how many ticketless fans would travel to Wembley on the day, how early they would arrive and how they might behave".
As a result, the crossbench peer has urged for the most significant changes in security laws since Hillsborough. Casey recommends tougher laws to tackle the use of "illegal drugs and smoke bombs and flares at and around football matches".
There are also demands for banning orders to tackle the thousands of incidents of "tailgating and entering stadiums or other public events without a ticket".
“The Euro 2020 final was a potentially glorious national occasion that turned into a day of national shame," she said. "Our team of role models were in our first major final for 55 years. However they were let down by a horde of ticketless, drunken and drugged-up thugs who chose to abuse innocent, vulnerable and disabled people, as well as police officers, volunteers and Wembley staff, creating an appalling scene of disorder and coming perilously close to putting lives at risk.
"We are genuinely lucky that there was not much more serious injury or worse, and need to take the toughest possible action against people who think a football match is somehow an excuse to behave like that."
In response to the review, Bullingham said: “The FA apologises for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game. Everyone at The FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder throughout the day on 11 July.
"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. 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…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 over the disorder and must play their next home game in European competition behind closed doors.
The fan chaos was disastrous timing for Government given the UK and Ireland is considering a bid for the centenary World Cup, with a feasibility study ongoing. Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, said last month he was convinced the disorder had not “put the kibosh” on hopes.
Metropolitan Police apology
The Met police have welcomed Baroness Casey’s review and declared that they intend to follow the recommendations she has outlined (see box above).
In a statement, the force said that officers faced "unacceptable levels of violence in trying to bring about order" and that "their courage in challenging those unacceptable scenes is commendable and without their efforts, it is clear that this match may have been in jeopardy."
Commander Rachel Williams from the Metropolitan Police Service, said: “First and foremost I am deeply sorry that so many people who came to enjoy a day of football, were met with unacceptable scenes of disorder.
"We regret that we were not able to do more to prevent those scenes unfolding. We vow to work with the FA and others, to learn from what went wrong and ensure those shocking scenes of thuggery are not repeated."
The Met also confirmed that they are still assessing CCTV footage to identify criminals responsible for the rioting.