Britain’s largest police force has said it regrets being unable to do more to prevent “unacceptable scenes of disorder” when fans stormed Wembley Stadium for the Euro 2020 final.
Baroness Casey’s independent review into events surrounding the historic match on July 11 concluded there were a series of crowd “near misses” which “could have led to significant injuries or even death”.
In what Baroness Casey described as “a source of national shame”, around 2,000 people without tickets managed to get into the London stadium as England took on Italy.
The report, commissioned by the Football Association (FA) and published on Friday, said policing at the game “did not sufficiently mitigate the risk of ticketless fans, with officers deployed too late in the day”.
Much of what unfolded was “foreseeable” and there was a “collective failure to plan for the worst case scenario”, the review said.
In response to the report, Metropolitan Police Commander Rachel Williams 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 welcome the praise by Baroness Casey on the bravery of officers in directly confronting scenes of disorder. Her comments sets out the unprecedented pressure officers faced, they are a credit to policing.
“Throughout the course of the day, this moment of national significance was tarnished by groups of ticketless, anti-social and thuggish football fans who were intent on causing disorder and committing criminal acts.
“We regret that we were not able to do more to prevent those scenes unfolding.”
Baroness Casey said that the responsibility for the risk to life lies with ticketless fans who she said “attacked the stadium”.
Many of those who stormed the ground headed for disabled-pass gates, with ticketless fans targeting disabled supporters “in a predatory fashion near the turnstiles”.
In her scathing report, Baroness Casey wrote: “The drunkenness, drug-taking, irresponsibility, criminality and abuse of innocent people, including staff, families and disabled ticket-holders, was shocking and intolerable.
“I hope the police and other authorities continue to prosecute as many of the perpetrators as possible and the courts and football authorities apply the toughest possible punishments.”
She said one of the “saddest” things to emerge in the review was that the concern of FA staff was so high when it came to safety, that some were relieved the match ended in an England defeat.
She wrote: “While they did not want the England team to lose that night, such was their concern for what might happen in the event of an England victory, they ended up with a feeling of huge relief at the result.
“In the end the penalty shootout went Italy’s way, the rain came down, and the crowds dispersed largely quietly. But we should not lose sight of how close the alternative was.
“And they should never have had to feel that way anyway.”
But when it came to policing the crowds, the review found that the deployment of more officers on the ground came “too late in the day”, at a point when there was already disorder.
The review said: “By the time officers were on the ground, therefore, the area around Olympic Way had been taken over by significant numbers of people committing disorder, fuelled by alcohol and drug consumption.”
However Baroness Casey, who described the violence towards police as “appalling” and said those responsible should face “severe consequences”, praised officers for working with “considerable skill and courage, stabilising the situation shortly after kick-off and ensuring the match was able to progress”.
More than 20 “near-misses” were identified in the review, where the behaviour of ticketless fans was deemed to have created risks of crowd collapse on staircases, door-wedging, trampling in crowds and barrier collapse.
Among her national recommendations, Baroness Casey urged the Government to consider a new category for football matches of national significance, with authorities such as the police setting out what steps should be taken for such games, and to consider strengthening penalties for football-related disorder.
She also called for a review of stewarding, an agreement on who is accountable for the area of public space outside the stadium used by supporters (known as Zone Ex), and an FA-led national campaign to change attitudes towards supporter behaviours.
Specific recommendations for the FA and Wembley include strengthening safety plans, a more joined-up approach between Wembley and the Met to manage public safety on match days, and key partners “to make a concerted effort to proactively solicit and listen to each other’s concerns and avoid any single agency from becoming too dominant”.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Casey Report rightly highlights that responsibility for the reckless and criminal behaviour at the Euro 2020 final lies with a small minority of individuals who sought to undermine the day for the overwhelming majority of genuine football fans at Wembley Stadium.
“The UK has a long and successful record of hosting major international sporting events, and the Government will now work with the police and football authorities to consider the report’s recommendations in full and ensure lessons are learned.”