An England win in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley could have had “horrific” consequences,a review into fan disorder has found.
There were a number of “near-misses” before the game which could have resulted in deaths, the report said.
The review into the chaos that unfolded around the match on July 11, which was led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock, said that 6,000 "ticketless, drunken and drugged-up thugs” were preparing to storm the stadium.
Around 2,000 ticketless individuals were found to have gained entry to Wembley, with 400 of those ejected.
However, the situation could have been made much worse by an England victory, multiple contributors to the review said.
A ticketless group of 6,000 were believed to be preparing to storm the stadium as legitimate ticket-holders were trying to leave.
An FA official recalled individuals being stood like “zombies”, not even watching the game on their phones, waiting to get in.
The review said there had been a collective failure by all the organisations involved in planning for the final to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
‘Thank God England lost’
An official from the London emergency services said the consequences of an England win would have been “horrific”, and that a major incident would have been declared at Wembley and in central London.
The official added: “I can guarantee that we would have been on our knees.”
An official from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority told the review: “Thank God England lost.
“If they had won you would have to open the doors to let people out and the stadium would have been stormed.”
All agencies responsible for staging the final had been caught off-guard, the review found, with police deployed too late.
‘A source of national shame’
“I am clear that we were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many, in attendance,” Baroness Casey concluded.
“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.”
Ticketless individuals were found to have gained entry by tailgating or involvement in one of 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors identified by the review, which “jeopardised the lives of legitimate supporters and staff”.
The breaches stretched from 90 minutes before kick-off up to the penalty shoot-out, the review found, with disabled supporters particularly affected.
One individual even impersonated a steward and hijacked a disabled child in a wheelchair, separating him from his father in an attempt to gain entry to the stadium.
The review found the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, along with England’s first appearance in a major final since 1966, had created a “perfect storm”.
It said the absence of a fan zone contributed to the chaos and would have acted as “a much-needed pressure valve”. The review found the Metropolitan Police made repeated requests to the Government for such a zone to be set up.
Witnesses to the review said as well as alcohol, cocaine use was widespread and the drug was being taken “in plain sight”.
What the FA said about the disorder
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said his organisation fully accepted the findings and he apologised for the “terrible experience” many suffered within Wembley.
“The review makes clear that 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.
“I would like to thank everyone who worked at the match that day. Many people went well above and beyond their roles and performed their duties with courage and determination. This was often at personal risk to themselves.
“The lessons learned from this Review will ensure that fans have a good experience at major international events at Wembley, as they have for many years.”
A version of this article originally appeared on NationalWorld.com