The violence and chaos that preceded Sunday’s Euro 2020 final at Wembley could have been “catastrophic” for disabled supporters attending the game, according to a user-led campaigning organisation.
Reports have emerged that ticketless England fans who forced their way into the stadium gained access through at least one of the accessible entrances, while many ended up packed into an accessible viewing area reserved for disabled people.
Melissa Reddy, senior football correspondent for The Independent, posted the following tweet a quarter of an hour into the game: “Steady flow of ticketless fans were still rushing into stands when the opener was scored.
“Aisles so full, stairs blocked and the disabled area in front of the press box is packed.
“Paying supporters pleading with helpless stewards to get them out. Kids scared, seats stolen. Unsafe.”
Level Playing Field (LPF) – a disabled-led campaigning charity which represents disabled sports fans – has been passed information by fans who attended the game, and said it was “deeply concerned about the potential threat to the safety of disabled spectators at the match”.
One of those who got in touch with LPF described how their son, a wheelchair-user with high support needs, was stuck in the middle of the crush when the entrance for disabled fans was “stormed by so called fans without tickets”.
He was helped by both English and Italian fans but could have been badly hurt, and the incident “ruined his experience”.
There were further reports on the LPF Facebook page, with one man describing how his wife and disabled son were “almost crushed by louts storming the disabled enclosure”.
He said the stewards “were overwhelmed and the police were completely absent”, and the situation was “dangerous and out of control”.
Another said: “Two people on our platform left as the stewards were unable to sit people down as others (I’m guessing the people who stormed the stadium) were in their seats.”
LPF has contacted the Football Association – which owns the national football stadium – to ask it to ensure that any investigation will examine the impact on disabled fans.
A spokesperson for LPF said that disabled fans “have the right to feel safe to watch football, and any fan that would endanger the safety of other supporters is not a true football fan”.
Tony Taylor (pictured), LPF’s chair, said: “The safety of all fans must be of paramount importance and breaches that took place at accessible entrances are a matter of great concern.
“These accessible entrances and viewing platforms are there for the use of disabled fans and it seems that it was only good fortune that prevented a catastrophic outcome.
“It is only right that the impact on disabled fans is thoroughly reviewed but we recognise that there are broader issues that do need to be looked at, including intelligence gathering, stewarding and policing (both in and around the stadium).
“Accordingly, Level Playing Field has been in contact with officials at Wembley Stadium, along with the Metropolitan Police and other relevant bodies to seek an explanation of what went wrong.
“We recognise that reports about the events at Wembley on Sunday night have sent a shockwave through the country, but the impact on disabled people in particular cannot be ignored.
“We know of many who are now questioning if it is safe for them to attend large events and it is imperative that a thorough, detailed and transparent review is undertaken to ensure that there is no repeat of these appalling scenes.”
An FA spokesperson refused to answer questions about the involvement of accessible entrances in the chaos, accessible viewing areas, or the experiences of disabled supporters at the game, or to say if it would ensure that any investigation would examine the impact on disabled fans and how to ensure their safety in the future.
But he said in a statement: “We will carry out a full review and investigation into the events that took place at Wembley Stadium before and during the UEFA Euro 2020 final.
“This will be done in collaboration with the police, the Greater London Authority, the safety advisory group and the tournament delivery stakeholders.
“Security and stewarding numbers for the UEFA Euro 2020 final exceeded the requirements for the match and were greater than any other previous event at Wembley Stadium.
“However, 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.
“No steward or security staff should be subjected to this type of behaviour and we thank them for their support on the night.
“We also apologise to anyone at the match whose experience was affected by this unprecedented level of public disorder.
“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities to identify and take action against these people where possible.”
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