Stewards try to stop fans storming their way into Wembley
There are major fears Britain and Ireland’s 2030 World Cup bid could have been wrecked after hooligans stormed Wembley during England’s European Championship final defeat to Italy.
The Government is currently grilling those responsible for policing the country’s biggest match for 55 years – and Parliament is set to do the same – over some of the worst violence at a big match in the UK for many years.
The Football Association is also facing a heavy fine, and even a suspended stadium ban, from Uefa after scores of apparently ticketless hooligans forced entry to Sunday’s game and ran riot inside and outside the ground.
And there could be worse in store for the FA from European football’s governing body over the scenes that marred the latter’s quadrennial showpiece ahead of a decision over which of its members’ 2030 World Cup bids it puts forward to a vote at Fifa.
Britain and Ireland had looked to have stolen a march on a joint Spain-Portugal offering back in April after Boris Johnson helped bring down the Super League.
But those behind the GB&Ire bid admitted Sunday’s scenes, and the shambolic security operation that failed to prevent them, had harmed their efforts to bring football home again.
A senior figure at one of the FA’s bid partners told Telegraph Sport: “It can’t help things – looked like chaos outside the stadium.”
Security was meant to have been stepped up on Sunday after some ticketless fans got into England’s semi-final win over Denmark, which saw Uefa fine the FA more than £25,000 after a laser-pointer was shone in the face of Kasper Schmeichel, as well as other offences.
Jim Boyce, Northern Ireland’s former Fifa vice-president, said Sunday night’s “disgraceful scenes” had once again brought English football into “complete and utter disrepute”.
“The England team did the nation proud. They did the good football fans of that country who have been starved of success for a long time proud. But, unfortunately, the headlines today are once again reflecting on idiots and drunken louts.
“It would be wonderful to see a World Cup back again in the United Kingdom and, certainly, the events of Sunday night do not enhance the prospects of it happening.”
One senior figure involved in England’s doomed 2018 World Cup bid said Sunday night’s scenes were compounded by English football’s historic hooliganism problem.
“They are going to take that into consideration, particularly with Uefa, with clubs and the problems we had,” he said.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, quizzed the FA on Monday about the security lapses at a match both he and the Prime Minister attended.
A Whitehall source said: “There are some quite big questions to ask about the policing and stewarding.”
Julian Knight MP, the chair of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, said he would be asking similar questions when the FA next appeared before him.
“It’ll be a major subject for us to discuss because, for me, their duty of safeguarding to the fans is absolutely central to what they do and, without it, frankly, they’re not doing their job.
“There needs to be a full inquiry from the Football Association which needs to be released into the public domain in order to set up precisely what went wrong and what lessons will be learnt.
“We are incredibly lucky that potentially the greatest night in English football in more than half a century wasn’t marred by the most awful tragedy.
“I can’t imagine what the families of those to have lost people in the past in such situations would feel watching those scenes.”
England fans and police outside Wembley
Among the questions facing those responsible for security were why the initial checkpoint for ticket-holders was so close to the stadium when most major events employ a wider ring of steel, and why so few police appeared to be on duty at Wembley.
Mark and Nicola Palios, the respective chairman and vice-chair of Tranmere Rovers, attended Sunday’s game and were “pushed to one side” when one of the ticket checkpoints was rushed by fans.
Mark, a former FA chief executive, said he was “loath to criticise” but said there appeared to be “no support” by police for overrun stewards.
“The general impression is that they were not prepared for it,” he said of those responsible for security at the ground. “It’s quite embarrassing. This is our national stadium.”
There was also criticism of tournament organisers for scheduling the final at 8pm on a Sunday, which gave fans celebrating England’s first major final since the 1966 World Cup a whole weekend’s drinking time before the game.
“Why do you choose eight-o’clock at night on a Sunday?” said Palios, of a kick-off time that would have suited the lucrative North American television market.