FA officials willed Italy to win Euro 2020 shootout at fear of 6,000 unticketed England fans storming Wembley

·4-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

England winning their Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out would have paved the way for 6,000 more ticketless fans storming Wembley, with FA officials reluctantly willing Italy to win as a result.

A damning 129-page report into England’s biggest match for 55 years described events of 2,000 unticketed spectators forcing their way into the stadium for the match against Italy.

But three times that number were ready to charge in as the exits were opened for fans to leave Wembley at full-time on a night that was described as “a perfect storm” with unprecedented levels of criminal and anti-social behaviour.

The report found that not just members of the FA, but Wembley officials and stewards were willing England to lose. One unnamed FA official described people in extra time “standing like zombies on the line trying to get in… I’m estimating 6,000 people”.

One Greater London Authority official said: “I wanted Italy to win under penalties. I was begging for the scenario that unfolded because there was pressure building… and I was just, ‘If they win, that charge is uncontrollable’.”

Emergency services, meanwhile, said an England victory would have led to a major incident and left staff “on their knees”.

The damning report detailed how the partner of one England player feared for her life while the father of another player described people sprawled on the ground, including a young wheelchair user after fans stormed the entry barriers.

In total, 2,000 people made their way in at 17 entry points although 400 people were later ejected. One ticketless fan even impersonated a steward and hijacked a child in a wheelchair in order to gain access to Wembley.

Baroness Louise Casey, the author of the report, said: “The Euro 2020 finals was a potentially glorious national occasion that turned into a day of national shame.”

She said that England manager Gareth Southgate and his players 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.”

 (via REUTERS)

She described a unique set of circumstances to the backdrop of Covid-19, which played a key role in the unrest on July 11.

Spectator numbers had been curtailed at 67,000, giving ticketless fans an elevated belief they could force their way into Wembley either by tailgating legitimate ticket holders or else forcing entry.

The Covid impact also meant that the venue was lacking the required number of experienced stewards on the day and night in question.

There were allegations in the report that some stewards had taken bribes to allow some people illegal entry into the ground, while another spectator suffered a seizure having earlier been trapped under a barrier.

It described the final as “a near miss” that could have been infinitely worse had England been victorious.

Baroness Casey stated: “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 Britain is a cause for 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”.

Those gathering outside Wembley Way were fuelled by alcohol and drugs, cocaine in particular, many of them having started drinking early in the day.

One London Underground official described how he had never seen such drunkenness so early in the morning while a Brent Council official likened it “to a medieval football match” and another review respondent said it was “like a war zone”.

A local Co-op had to be shut when a police officer was hit over the head with a bottle, while a pub locked in its drinkers when hundreds of people tried to storm inside after being refused entry.

While the majority of blame was landed on a large minority of England supporters, there was criticism of event organisers, agencies and the police, “who planned for the wrong risks: disorder after the match rather than first thing in the morning”. It found, as a result, police were deployed too late.

She added: “No one was fully prepared for what happened that day and it can’t be allowed to happen again,” and also concluded that some of what happened had been “sadly foreseeable”.

A series of recommendations were made including the Government considering strengthening penalties for football-related disorder, launching a FA nationwide campaign over supporter behaviour, a review of stewarding, working out responsibility for the area outside the stadium – in this case Wembley Way, and a new category for football matches of national significance.

She also argued that the actions of a minority of football fans had been tolerated for too long, calling for tailgating to be made illegal.

Following publication of the report, FA CEO Mark Bullingham, among those interviewed for the report, said: “We fully accept its findings and there are important learnings for us, as well as other agencies involved.

“The FA apologises for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game.”

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