(Reuters) – The Football Association (FA) CEO Mark Bullingham apologised to fans on Friday for the “terrible experience” during the European Championship final between England and Italy at Wembley, after an independent review said it was a “near miss” of fatalities.
The July 11 final, won by Italy in a penalty shootout, was marred by clashes between supporters and officials in and around England’s national stadium, with hundreds of ticketless fans breaching security cordons.
The review conducted by Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock stated it was “clear we were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many” of the fans in attendance after 17 mass breaches of Wembley’s gates.
“That this should happen anywhere in 21st century Britain is a source of concern. That it should happen at our national stadium and on the day of our biggest game of football for 55 years is a source of national shame,” the review said.
Bullingham said the FA accepted the findings and added there were “important learnings” for the body and other agencies.
“The FA apologises for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game,” Bullingham said in a statement.
“Everyone at the FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder… The review makes clear the circumstances leading up to the match led to a perfect storm of lawlessness.
“No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans. Collectively we must never allow this to happen again.
“Baroness Casey is clear that moving forwards, where there is an event of national significance, we and all agencies must view it through a different lens.”
‘MAJOR DISASTER’ AVERTED
Julian Knight, chair of the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said that a major disaster was narrowly averted.
“This day of national shame saw the behaviour of drunken and drugged-up thugs put the lives of genuine football fans at serious risk,” he said.
“That a collective failure in planning allowed safety breaches on this scale is a grave charge given that the risk was foreseeable.
“Baroness Casey says our national game deserves better and has made a number of strong recommendations to ensure that scenes like this are never witnessed again.
“However, we must see action taken by football authorities before we bid for any major tournaments. The DCMS Committee will be monitoring not what is said today but what is done in the weeks and months ahead.”
European soccer’s governing body ordered England to play two home games in UEFA competitions without fans, with the second suspended for a period of two years, while the FA was fined 100,000 euros ($113,000).
($1 = 0.8841 euros)
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rohith Nair)