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Fan disorder at Wembley in 2021: Have lessons been learned?

Back in 2021, the postponed Euro 2020 final took place at Wembley Stadium. On what should have been a day of excitement and anticipation ahead of England's first final in 54 years quickly turned into chaos when thousands of fans tried to get into the stadium without a ticket.

The circumstances around the final were unique in that only 75% of the capacity had been sold due to the Covid pandemic. While that may seem like a reduction now, at the time it was an increase on any of the earlier rounds with all previous games played at Wembley capped at 25%.

Fan disorder at Wembley
Thousands of fans tried to enter Wembley without tickets for the Euro 2020 final – Photo by Icon Sport

By this point, people in the UK had spent much of the previous year inside due to pandemic restrictions so the opportunity to go out and enjoy a day drinking with friends around the stadium was more exciting than it would previously have been. Add to the fact, England had a legitimate chance of winning the tournament and it's easy to see how things got out of hand.

The issues at the Wembley turnstiles have been well documented. Some fans tried to charge through the stewards, while others tried a more stealth-like approach by tailgating ticket holders through the large, automated turnstiles. Have any lessons been learned from that day at Wembley or will we see a repeat at this year's Champions League final?

Fan disorder at Wembley – a one-off?

The fan disorder at Wembley in 2021 isn't the only UEFA final that has seen security issues in recent times. The Champions League final in 2022 in Paris saw thousands of Liverpool fans stranded outside of the turnstiles down a narrow entrance, sparking fears of a crush. As a result, the match was delayed by more than 30 minutes and Liverpool fans have since been compensated.

It is also wasn't the first time that Wembley stewards have failed to keep on top of large crowds at the turnstiles. Many fan groups across the UK consider Wembley an ‘easy jib' due to the wide unattended turnstiles which make tailgating favourable for ticketless supporters.

Fan disorder at Wembley – lessons learned

Over the past couple of years, UEFA and Wembley officials have been working to ensure the 2024 final goes as smoothly as possible. Practice drills have been taking place in the build-up to the final to test security workers while £5m has been spent on new security measures.

wembley security
There will be a large police presence at Wembley for the Champions League final – Photo by Icon Sport

Ahead of the final, Wembley’s director of tournaments & events Chris Bryant said: “Between ourselves and Uefa we absolutely have embraced the learnings from Paris in the delivery of this event. That is clear.

“One of the things we’ve done is increase the strength of all of the doors. At the Euros final we found people trying to rip the emergency exit doors off. Those doors are locked with a magnetic lock system because we need the ability to open them from the control room – what we’ve had to do is put a further lock system on every single door around the stadium now.

“We never saw events like the Euro final, I’m not sure if we’ll ever see them again. But it’s obviously incumbent upon us to ensure that we’ve learned the lessons and implemented additional measures.”

Additional new Wembley security measures

In addition to the new magnetic lock doors, plenty of other measures are being undertaken this weekend to prevent a repeat of the Euro 2020 final.

Fans will now have their tickets checked three times before they get to the turnstiles while a new control room will monitor far-reaching CCTV track supporters away from the immediate vicinity of the stadium. Closer to the stadium, additional sniffer dogs are being deployed to detect drugs.

In total, there will be 2,400 stewards working at Wembley on Saturday which is far more than any previous Wembley event. The number of these stewards wearing body cams will also be greater than ever before and many of them worked the FA Cup final between Man Utd and Man City to familiarise themselves with Wembley protocols.

Whether all of these new measures have the desired effect remains to be seen but nobody can accuse UEFA or Wembley officials of resting on their laurels ahead of another major event.

Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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