Sat. May 28th, 2022

The Football Association’s (FA) chief executive, Mark Bullingham, has apologized to fans for what he called the “horrific experience” during the European Championship final between England and Italy at Wembley, after an independent review said it was a near-accident, when it came to potential fatalities.

The July final, which Italy won on penalties, was marked by clashes between supporters and officials in and around the famous stadium.

The review found that around 2,000 ticketless supporters stormed Wembley on July 11 after 17 “mass burglaries” of the stadium gates.

Many fans forced their way through entrances for the disabled by beating and kicking stewards before England lost to Italy in the country’s first final in a major men’s tournament since winning the 1966 World Cup.

The review said that aggression from English fans was an “embarrassing” part of the national culture that put lives at risk.

It also recommended that fans be expelled from stadiums if they sing abuse or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“The behavior of a large minority of England’s supporters was not only shameful, it ruthlessly endangered life,” reviewer Louise Casey said in a 129-page report published Friday.

“The shocking behavior of Euro-Sunday supporters should be a wake-up call for all of us.

A man without a torso is detained by two police officers while a crowd of people watch
More than 80 people were arrested amid chaotic scenes when England met Italy at Wembley in July.(AP: Ian West)

‘A day of shame’

The review said that if England won the match, a ticketless group of 6,000 people were ready to storm the stadium to see the trophy presented.

Casey accused the vandalism of a collective failure and said she did not want to scapegoat anyone.

Casey recommended the English Football Association run a campaign to create a “sea change in attitudes” among fans.

Around 100,000 fans gathered around North London Stadium for the match, despite pandemic restrictions limiting Wembley’s capacity of 90,000 to 67,000.

“A loss of experienced stewards as a result of the pandemic made Wembley’s stewarding operation vulnerable when confronted with the most aggressive and disorderly crowd Wembley had ever seen.”

Ms Casey condemned fans who she said were targeting disabled supporters in an aggressive way to gain access.

“In a shocking incident, a ticketless fan tried to pretend to be a steward and hijack a disabled child, separating him from his father to fool himself through a passport.”

A lack of enforced alcohol bans on London’s public transport was highlighted in the report.

“The FA and Wembley, in partnership with others, should step up their efforts to eradicate such behavior from football … and refuse to allow access to fans who arrive singing abusively and / or are clearly under the influence of alcohol and / or drugs.” she said.

UEFA has already punished England, where a home game in the Nations League in June is played in an empty stadium.

Another empty-stadium match was postponed for a two-year trial.

“The review makes it clear that the pre-match circumstances led to a perfect storm of lawlessness,” Bullingham said in a statement.

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