England football chiefs and police on Monday faced questions over the chaotic and violent scenes around Wembley Stadium for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final, with concerns it could affect the country’s 2030 World Cup bid.
Police have launched an investigation to find the ticketless fans who stormed through security barriers and entered the stadium before the final, in which Italy beat England in a penalty shoot-out.
Stewards and riot police chased dozens of fans, who kicked down the security barrier before stampeding into an entrance and barging their way past other supporters, leading to violent scenes as some fought back.
Questions were raised about why so many fans without tickets had been allowed to congregate on the main thoroughfare to the famous ground, where the atmosphere became more hostile as kick-off approached.
“That was the worst experience I’ve ever had as a fan at a football match,” tweeted Daily Mail football journalist Mike Keegan.
“Shambolic organization, police nowhere to be seen, fans without tickets running amok within what was a giant Covid breeding ground,” he tweeted.
“Saw fights, bottles thrown, people karate kicking windows and (a new one for me) had to jump out of the way of an armed officer with his gun drawn chasing someone.
“Wembley Way a bombsite. Awful, awful night.”
London’s Metropolitan Police said it made 86 arrests and a total of 19 officers were injured while managing the final.
“Just before the match started, a group of people did breach an outer perimeter security cordon and gain entry into the stadium without a ticket,” it said, adding that police helped to eject them.
– ‘Forget about World Cup’ –
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham apologised to fans affected, telling the BBC that the security team had “never seen anything like it”.
“There were a large number of drunken yobs trying to force their way in, we run a stadium not a fortress,” he said.
“I have to apologise to any fans whose experience was affected and any of the team who had to cope with this.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who attended the match, told reporters “it was a shame that a small minority… tried to spoil it or behaved badly”.
“I don’t think that they damaged the atmosphere, certainly not in the stadium. But we will be looking at exactly what happened,” he said, conceding that police had “particular difficulties” in enforcing coronavirus social distancing rules.
Britain and Ireland are hoping to mount a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup, but Sunday’s scenes may have dealt those hopes a major blow, according to some observers.
“You can forget about the 2030 World Cup bid. Disgraceful,” tweeted broadcaster John Duggan.
Veteran reporter Henry Winter, chief sports writer for The Times newspaper, said that he had seen a Sky television presenter “subjected to horrendous abuse” and that the security cordon was too close to the stadium.
“It was clear from the section to the right of main press box that some ticketless got in. A surge arrived 15 mins before kickoff,” he explained.
“Some couples with tickets stood in aisles rather than argue with those who sat in their seats. Stewards overwhelmed.
“Thugs obviously and rightly condemned but Wembley security has to be better. The scenes, and the abuse of Italians and their anthem, is shaming and also a disaster for @FA 2030 World Cup bid.
“England may have gone out of two tournaments on one night,” he added.
Johnson, though, disagreed, arguing that Britain and Ireland have “a very good case” to host the tournament. In Dublin, deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar also said the incidents would not affect the bid.
Riot police were also required in central London, as large crowds attempted to push into a fanzone without tickets, while others clambered on buses and lampposts.
While there were some reports of vandalism after the game, the fans dispersed soon after the final whistle amid torrential rain.