Ticketless fans targeted disabled supporters in a “predatory” way as they tried to get inside Wembley Stadium for the Euro 2020 final, a review has found.
One shocking incident saw a man in a wheelchair taken from his father in an effort by someone to trick their way inside for the eagerly-anticipated match.
The ticketless fan tried to impersonate a steward to get through a pass gate, a report by Baroness Casey into the events surrounding the July 11 England v Italy game revealed.
The man’s father, in evidence to campaigning sports charity Level Playing Field for the report, said the England fan had been wearing a high-visibility jacket in a bid to disguise himself as an official.
The father said: “He’s then taken [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.”
The man in the wheelchair was identified as a child in the review, but Level Playing Field later clarified it was an adult.
It was just one example of how “ticketless fans targeted disabled supporters in a predatory fashion near the turnstiles” in behaviour described as disturbing.
In another instance the unnamed father of an England footballer described how there was “a wave of bodies just flung to the floor, including a young lad in a wheelchair – it was terrifying, disgraceful”.
The sports ground safety authority told how there were people “jumping over fans in wheelchairs”, adding: “It wasn’t human behaviour. You don’t expect people to behave like that.”
A ticketholder who complained to the Football Association (FA) said they “saw people in wheelchairs struggling to get through the mosh pits, wheeling over cans and bottles and God knows what else”.
Among its recommendations for the FA and Wembley ahead of future matches, the review stated that “particular attention should be made to ensuring those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others”.
Level Playing Field said it expects measures to be put in place to prevent similar events from happening again, adding that lessons can be learned, and should extend to all football and sports venues that deliver large scale events.
Tony Taylor, chair of the charity, said: “We are disgusted by the actions of individuals who chose to break into Wembley and cause chaos and put fans’ lives in danger. This was a coordinated attack and it’s vital that the intelligence-gathering ahead of fixtures is appropriate and acted on.
“It is important to recognise that more could have been done at this event to ensure accessible entrances weren’t targeted and breached 11 times in 40 minutes. We saw what happened at Old Trafford a few weeks earlier where an accessible entrance was targeted by ‘fans’ as a weak point, why wasn’t this considered?
“We welcome the fact that the FA have commissioned the report and have apologised for the terrible experience that many suffered. We are committed to working with the FA, Wembley Stadium, other stakeholders and disabled fans themselves, to deliver the appropriate recommendations.”