The Shameful Story Of English Supporter Chaos At Wembley On Football’s Big Day
If all the world’s a stage, England’s Euros loss is an embarrassing tragedy; not because football didn’t ‘come home’, but the aftermath of chaos, violence and racism.
June 11, 2021: the Three Lions mania begins. As England pushed through the tournament, the lyrics grew louder, pubs got rowdier in the best way. When the team reached their first international men’s final in 55 years, the excitement across the country was palpable. Rarely did a conversation pass you by without a wilful ‘It’s coming home’ punctuating it. Spirits were high.
July 11: 2021: the squad’s hopes end in heartbreak with defeat against Italy. Commiserations and pride, regardless of the loss, are offered by most. However, the team’s achievement has been overshadowed by the mayhem on the streets of London, where a certain subset of supporters did their utmost to further tarnish the country’s reputation.
First, footage emerged of the pre-drinks ahead of the historic Euros match, with glass bottles and other projectiles thrown across Leicester Square, litter as far as the eye could see, flares being lit and generally, people going a bit crazy. While inexcusable, it’s sadly par for the course ahead of a big game.
As the game kicked off at Wembley, there were reports of fans breaking into the stadium either without tickets or having stolen them; breaking through barriers, climbing over fences and charging through security and police officers to get inside.
The Mirror‘s Andy Lines was informed of a ‘steward threatened with a knife, a woman fan seriously sexually assaulted and a tearful schoolboy traumatised’ as a result of the breach. ‘What was I going to do? I earn £8.90 an hour – I’m not getting stabbed for that,’ the steward said.
Numerous stewards suffered injuries and endured racial abuse, with attending families having to guard their possessions out of fear of being robbed. There’s also been reports of ticketless fans openly snorting cocaine, as per The Athletic, and fans breaking through COVID-19 checkpoints and infiltrating the Italian side’s bio-secure ‘bubble’, endangering thousands in attendance.
Another video was posted online of gate-crashers, with other fans seemingly stepping into try and stop them with violence, with an Asian man seen on the ground being kicked by multiple people. In multiple clips, swarms of supporters were seen tussling with those in their way.
Fil Sollof, a longtime member of the England Fans Travel Club, told The Mirror, ‘I have travelled to all corners of the globe to watch England and I have never seen anything like Sunday night. It’s a total disgrace that makes me so embarrassed to be an England fan.’
Professor Geoff Pearson, an expert on the policing of football and a senior lecturer of criminal law at the University of Manchester, explained to The Athletic, ‘This tournament felt different. It didn’t belong to any one country and you didn’t have large numbers of away fans or even neutral fans. But the behaviour on Sunday night was more like what happens when you see away fans infiltrate home ends. There was a sense that this was a home match for England – and only England supporters were welcome.’
The Football Association (FA) has promised to launch a ‘full review and investigation’ into the ‘large number of drunken yobs’ who broke in during the game, saying, ‘The behaviour of the people who illegally forced their way into the stadium was unacceptable, dangerous and showed total disregard for the safety and security protocols in place.’
FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham said, ‘Anyone caught will obviously be banned and have the right action taken against them… we have got a fantastic security team at the stadium and they had never seen anything like it. We run a stadium, not a fortress.’
Police have arrested 86 people in the fallout of the Euro defeat, with 53 people taken into custody at Wembley ‘for a number of offences, including public order offences, ABH, drunk and disorderly and criminal damage’, the Met said, with 19 officers suffering injuries.
‘The unacceptable scenes we saw yesterday were a small number of people intent on using the football as an excuse to behave appallingly towards other members of the public and officers,’ Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said.
England had been planning a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, but commentators say the country’s chances have likely been scuppered by the matchday madness, as well as the racism exhibited towards Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, with a petition to ban all racists from English football matches for life on its way to one million signatures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, distancing himself from condemning the fans’ behaviour too explicitly, said England still has a ‘very good case’ to host the World Cup. ‘It was a shame a small minority yesterday tried to spoil it or behaved badly but I don’t think it damaged the atmosphere, certainly not in the stadium itself,’ he claimed.
Yet, the ensuing coverage of the Euros has been predominantly negative, fixated on appalling racial abuse and the shameful behaviour of supporters. The loss will still sting for fans, but the game itself should be the least of their worries.
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