The Metropolitan Police have defended their operational plan at Sunday’s Euro 2020 final, despite thousands of ticketless fans breaking into Wembley Stadium for Italy’s penalty shootout win over England and 19 of their officers being injured.
In a statement published on Thursday afternoon, deputy assistant commissioner Jane Connors claimed that “police commanders deployed one of the most significant and comprehensive policing plans the Met has ever committed to a football match of this scale” before adding “I do not accept that the policing operation failed and I standby [sic] the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met’s public order commanders.”
Multiple eyewitnesses have noted the inability of police to control the huge crowds that gathered from late morning on Wembley Way. Connors said that “soon into the day it became clear that a high number of fans were arriving without tickets”, but there are numerous accounts of police standing by as the mood turned dark and several spectators were injured by glass bottles and unopened beer cans thrown into crowds. Videos posted on social media showed people being cheered as they snorted drugs, while photographers captured violence between supporters.
Government ministers have promised to review the policing operation and their primary concern is the breach of a flimsy security perimeter to reach the stadium’s entrances. It is believed that the area’s layout, notably the proximity of Wembley Park station and steep steps leading to it, made it dangerous to establish a ticket perimeter further away from the stadium – which is customary for most major UEFA and FIFA events.
A number of ticketless fans had “jibbed” into Wembley for the semi-final win over Denmark and some boasted of the ease with which they had gained access afterwards. That appears to have emboldened more to try it for the final, England’s second ever, but little was visibly done to combat that risk. The Met and a Wembley spokesperson said there was an increased number of security present on Sunday but they have not provided numbers to back up those claims.
Further eyewitness accounts said that stewards were being openly bribed by fans for access, while others tailgated behind ticketholders at the turnstiles and some spectators without tickets were turned away. Another issue was that supporters were able to get through initial checks with screenshots of tickets that had been forwarded to them.
While the FA was in charge of stadium security, the police can be deployed to support them. They have been accused of reacting slowly instead of taking a proactive approach but Connors added: “I want to praise the quick response by police commanders and those brave officers who confronted these subsequent scenes of disorder and violence. I am in no doubt that their swift action prevented any further escalation.”
Twenty six people were arrested at Wembley with 25 more arrested relating to disturbances in Central London. CCTV footage of the incidents is being reviewed and further arrests are expected.
Wembley have also been criticised for their reaction, having initially said that the security breach did not result in anybody without a ticket getting into the arena. More than half a dozen gangways being filled with hundreds of people without seats at kick off and eyewitnesses say there were two people standing in a space for one seat across significant parts of the lower tier.
A later statement released by Wembley said that a “small number” had gotten in but attempts were being made to eject them.
Source by Football London