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England have been hit with an unprecedented stadium ban as punishment for the crowd trouble at the European Championship final, forcing at least one game to be played behind closed doors and costing the Football Association up to £5 million in lost revenue.
Uefa have handed England a two-game stadium ban, the second of which is suspended for two years, and a fine of around £85,000 (100,000 Euros) after thousands of ticketless fans broke into Wembley for the final of Euro 2020 against Italy. It is the first ever punishment of its kind for England.
The ban will be for Uefa competition, meaning Gareth Southgate’s side will not have to play in front of empty seats until June, when they compete in the Nations League. The cost of no fans being allowed could be as much as £5m.
“The FA made £116m revenue from Events/Club Wembley in 2018/19 [pre-Covid] from 54 events at Wembley," said Kieran Maguire, who lectures on football finance at Liverpool University. "Some of these would be low value, such as the FA Vase or League Two play-offs, so a major sold out event would generate about £5m.”
The loss of revenue, together with the fine, will come as a huge financial blow following the impact of Covid and having to play games behind closed doors because of the virus. Last year, the FA announced it was planning for potential financial losses of £300m and announced that 124 positions would be made redundant.
Responding to their punishment, the FA promised the disgraceful scenes of the final will never be repeated, just under a week after Hungarian and Polish supporters fought with police during England’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary which could land the governing body another fine following a Fifa investigation.
Outside Covid, England have never been forced to host a game behind closed doors, although they did play in an empty stadium in a Nations League match in 2018, when Croatia were serving a stadium ban for racism.
It was estimated that up to 250,000 supporters turned up at Wembley in July for England’s biggest game since the final of the 1966 World Cup amid wild and chaotic scenes.
There were numerous accounts of disorderly behaviour outside the stadium, including drug taking, throwing glasses and bottles, and letting off flares.
Hooligans without tickets managed to break into the stadium by barging through barriers and doors, allegedly paying stewards and tailgating fans with tickets, which resulted in fighting and overcrowding inside areas of Wembley.
Fans could not get to their seats, as people stood in the aisles and even the disabled sections of the stadium.
Players’ families were caught up in the mayhem with Harry Maguire’s father suffering broken ribs and the son of Italian head coach Roberto Mancini unable to get to his designated seat.
The FA responded to Uefa’s punishment with a statement that read: “Although we are disappointed with the verdict, we acknowledge the outcome of this Uefa decision.
“We condemn the terrible behaviour of the individuals who caused the disgraceful scenes in and around Wembley Stadium at the Euro 2020 Final, and we deeply regret some of them were able to enter the stadium.
“We are determined that this can never be repeated, so we have commissioned an independent review, led by Baroness Casey, to report on the circumstances involved.
“We continue to work with the relevant authorities in support of their efforts to take action against those responsible and hold them to account.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston condemned the events of July on Twitter.
1/2 The scenes we witnessed in the Summer were disgraceful.
We wholeheartedly condemn the awful behaviour of a minority of thugs who have now sadly cost Gareth Southgate's @England team the chance to be cheered on by genuine fans.https://t.co/MFkpmdOsfi
— Nigel Huddleston MP #GetTheJab (@HuddlestonNigel) October 18, 2021
“The FA has rightly commissioned an independent review to make sure events like this can't happen again, and I know the police are taking action to hold those responsible to account,” he wrote.
The FA are now desperately hoping that the punishment will not also reflect on a joint British-Irish bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Spain and Portugal’s joint bid is thought to be the favoured European slot for the tournament, with one weekend report claiming England and Ireland could instead be encouraged to focus on Euro 2028.
Meanwhile, England manager Southgate will turn down Arsene Wenger’s invite to discuss Fifa’s plans for a biennial World Cup.
Fifa have invited all national association coaches to take part in talks with Wenger this week about the controversial proposals.
But, having already spoken to the former Arsenal manager earlier in the year about the possibility of holding the World Cup every two years and changing the global football calendar, Southgate does not feel the need to discuss it in person again.
Instead, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham will take part in one of the online sessions for CEOs which are also being held between Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Wenger said: “As a coach of the men`s national teams, their input is essential. Opportunities for us to come together are few and far between, but we must embrace these occasions as such dialogue helps us all to protect the unique place that football has in the world and to make it truly global.”
Comment: This is a disgraceful and shameful incident for English football
By Jason Burt
England have been playing international football for 149 years. Not once before, during all those decades and all those hundreds of home matches, mainly at Wembley, have they been punished with a stadium ban. That is how embarrassing and how shameful it is for a major footballing nation to suffer the verdict handed down by Uefa because of the utterly disgraceful, completely indefensible scenes at the final of Euro 2020.
It is also appropriate. In fact the Football Association has actually been treated leniently with just a two-match ban with one of those suspended for two years. It means there will no fans at one of the home games in the 2022-23 Nations League campaign next June plus a fine of 100,000 euros (£84,500).
It is also why the statement released by the FA following the ban is wrong. It begins: “Although we are disappointed with the verdict…” Whoever wrote that should have had it sent back to them straight away by FA chief executive Mark Bullingham with a red line through those first seven words.
Disappointed? What did the FA expect? Instead the statement should have been far more contrite and not go on to try and claim it was some “individuals” who caused the violence, the chaos, the disorder. There were thousands of ticketless fans forcing their way in amid allegations of stewards being bribed and Covid test checkpoints abandoned as fights broke out.
It was a day of absolute shame for England and the FA. The world was watching and this is what they saw. This is the face that England and football showed. Please do not attempt to gloss over it or play it down.
Anyone who was at Wembley that day saw scenes that were despicable and demoralising. It was humiliating for English football, for England as a country, which so often attempts to take the moral high ground over other nations and then appears surprised when it is not popular.
There is absolutely no point in any ‘whataboutery’ and comparing it to Uefa and Fifa’s often lenient way of dealing with racism. Yes, those sanctions need to be far stronger and Hungary deserved greater punishment that was meted out for the latest racist behaviour of their fans when England played in Budapest. But that is a separate issue.
England cannot point fingers and, as usual, Gareth Southgate was spot on with his assessment, prior to the ban, when he said: “We shouldn’t look elsewhere until our own house is in order”. With what happened at Wembley there was a dereliction of duty and while the FA cannot be wholly responsible for violence from so-called fans – and many were not fans but were drawn to the lawlessness - without tickets, drunk and drugged as so many of them were, neither can it try and pretend it is just a societal issue and not to do with them.
There was a duty of care to those fans who did have tickets, expensive tickets, with many children excitedly going to the biggest game of their lives. And the FA and the other bodies failed to uphold that. The memories of those fans is tainted. Many are scarred by the experience. There is an area in front of the press box at Wembley that is reserved for disabled fans. For the first half of the final it was occupied by abusive gatecrashers who threatened anyone who tried to move them on plus a few, embarrassed supporters who had tickets but whose seats were occupied and had nowhere to go. One young woman looked shell-shocked. Stewards looked in fear.
And this was at Wembley. This was at the biggest game that Wembley has staged since 1966, the biggest in the national stadium since it was re-built in 2007. It cost £1.2 billion but unfortunately it is not fit for purpose. How can it be after what happened?
The FA, Uefa, the local Safety Advisory Group and the Metropolitan Police should have been more vigilant. There had been problems with ticketless fans during at least three other England games at Euro 2020 and on the day of the final it was estimated that 250,000 people descended on the Wembley area with its bars, shops, hotels, restaurants and flats built so close to the stadium that it is impossible to erect a security cordon. The FA actually owns very little of the land.
Anyone who was there that day could see it was not going to end well. They could see it was out of control. They could see action was needed to try and contain things. None of that happened. It was a national ignominy.