Euro 2020: Met chief denies policing of ultimate failed as disabled followers inform of terror | Incapacity
A London police chief has announced that the Euro 2020 final on Sunday could have been canceled after fans without tickets “overwhelmed” the perimeter security at Wembley Stadium.
Jane Connors, deputy assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said police were determined to identify those responsible and denied allegations that the police operation had failed.
Connors said the Met commanders realized ahead of Sunday’s game that “a high number of fans were arriving without tickets,” despite warnings to fans without tickets to stay away.
She said: “Shortly after the gates opened, the security checkpoint and outside security area were overwhelmed and fans started going through security checkpoints.”
She claimed that only the quick reaction of police commanders and “courageous officers” on the ground prevented the stadium from being overrun. “Without your immediate action, it is possible that this game would have been abandoned,” she said.
So far 51 people have been arrested across London, including 26 at Wembley Stadium.
Connors added, “I do not accept that the police operation has failed and I stand by the difficult decisions made by police officers and public order commanders at the Met.”
However, she confirmed that the police operation was being reviewed by the Met and the football association. She said, “Where lessons can be learned, we will work with partners to ensure future games are not disrupted by a group of alcohol-driven hooligans.”
Meanwhile, disabled fans have spoken of the horror of being hit by the events on Sunday when activists demanded that the review include disabled access in the stadium.
Ticketless fans have admitted that they are targeting disabled entrances. Now disabled fans and their caregivers have described their fear as they got caught up in fights between fans and stewards.
Scott Furlong, 39, said the scenes were shocking when he tried to get into the stadium with his 15-year-old son Kian, who has cerebral palsy. First they had to fight to negotiate Wembley Way because it was so “bullied with drunk people”.
Furlong said, “The smell of urine stung my eyes and pushing Kian’s wheelchair was like a snow plow – there were so many cans, bags and bottles.”
More serious problems started when it came to scanning their tickets at a separate handicapped accessible entrance in Block N. Furlong said the door was kicked in twice by stewards trying to eject ticketless fans. “The door banged on my son’s legs. He was shocked and I was angry. “
Furlong, who runs a sporting goods store in Coventry, said: “The stewards were probably upset and unsure what to do, but it was just shocking to go into an accessible entrance – it could have hit someone in the head.”
Furlong is also mad at fans without tickets who were hanging on the disabled door to gain entry.
“Targeting disabled entrances just shows no compassion. I don’t know what the stewards are getting paid for, but I’m sure it wasn’t enough to handle that amount. “
Kian said, “I was a little scared when they came through the door. Daddy yelled at her because the door hit my legs. I think they are idiots. “
Fans enter Wembley Stadium without tickets for the Euro 2020 final – video
Furlong said he only managed to get a ticket for his son after he was repeatedly told by UEFA that the handicap allocation was full.
He said the organization didn’t give in until he emailed photos of empty seats for the disabled at previous games. “We hear a lot about racism on the news, but the discrimination in general has been terrible,” he said.
Tim Hiley, 29, an actor from Southampton, went to the game with wheelchair colleague Joe McIndoe and also witnessed un-ticketed fans being kicked out of folders through disabled entrances. “I was horrified by what I saw,” he said.
A ticketless fan posing as a steward in a safety vest tried in vain to grab Joe’s wheelchair to plead through the handicapped-accessible entrance.
Hiley later said “all hell broke loose” when there was a delay in scanning her tickets. He said up to six stewards attempted to detain dozens of un-ticketed fans at an accessible entrance at Gate K, where hundreds of security breaches were alleged.
Hiley said, “At one point they were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd and people ran in. It was almost like a scene from Game of Thrones.
“A poor young fellow with his legs strapped in and crutches was devastated by the crowd, and then a steward was flattened trying to prevent people from getting into the ground as well as from anywhere near me and my friend came.”
He added: “The security was abysmal. It was the first time I felt unsafe at an event and Wembley has some serious questions to answer. “
Level Playing Field, a charity for disabled fans, has written to Wembley Stadium and the Met requesting an investigation into the impact on disabled fans.
Charity chairman Tony Taylor said, “We urgently need responses to what is happening because the reports I have heard have been absolutely horrific. Many disabled fans are now really scared of the level of safety that is offered to them.
“People only got minor injuries, but it could have been a lot worse. Not only can we single out stewards, many of whom may not be trained, it has to be viewed as a whole. “
Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “It is deeply worrying that disabled fans have been subjected to injured physical assault at a national sports venue.
“We are urgently asking Wembley for clarification on how this was allowed to happen.”
An FA spokesman confirmed that a full investigation is in progress.
He added: “We also apologize to everyone who was affected by this unprecedented level of public disorder at the game.”