Skip to content
Home » Inside Wembley’s ‘ring Of Steel’: A £5m Security Operation, Thousands Of Stewards And Enhanced Ticket Checks In Place As Stadium Tries To Avoid Repeat Of England’s Day Of Shame At Euro 2020

Inside Wembley’s ‘ring Of Steel’: A £5m Security Operation, Thousands Of Stewards And Enhanced Ticket Checks In Place As Stadium Tries To Avoid Repeat Of England’s Day Of Shame At Euro 2020

On Saturday, the eyes of Europe will come to rest on Wembley as Real Madrid face off with Borussia Dortmund in a bid to claim UEFA’s highest honour in their Champions League final.

This weekend’s clash will also be watched by myriad others – waiting with baited breath. Three years on from the chaos of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy, European football’s governing body has returned to town and will be expecting a wholly different atmosphere.

The spectre of that final looms large. Scores of England fans had gathered at Wembley before the match, intent on getting a glimpse of England’s best shot at silverware since 1966, regardless of whether they had a ticket or not.

As the clock ticked towards kick-off, Wembley’s insufficient defences began to crumble as groups of ticketless fans began to target the stadium’s weakest entry points including fire doors, most reprehensibly, 17 disabled access entrances.

Thousands of fans poured through the breached gates and into the stadium, with little regard for those trampled under foot. Even VIPs were caught up in the messy swirl – with Harry Maguire’s father sustaining injuries to his ribs after being sucked into the chaotic crush.

Wembley is preparing to host the biggest European tie since the ill-fated Euro 2020 final

As England hosted Italy at their home of football, thousands of ticketless fans wreaked havoc

In an attempt to rush the barricades and seize one of the 25,000 empty seats, fans flooded through weak defences

The quest that day was to fill the 25,000 empty seats left vacant due to Covid-19 measures, contributing to the ‘perfect storm’ of motive and opportunity.

19 police officers were injured – including ones policing the equally out-of-hand fan zones at Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, and there were 53 supporters arrested at Wembley alone. Not for nothing was a recent Netflix documentary’s look at the disturbances on Euro Sunday subtitled ‘The Attack on Wembley’.

England were also handed a two-match ban on supporters at the home of football – one suspended for two years – after UEFA charged them for the unrest, as well as pitch invasions, fireworks set off inside the stadium, and disturbances during the national anthems.

When the dust settled, the independent investigation into the day’s unrest went one step further, with Baroness Casey’s report showing how lucky the event had been to have escaped even more trouble – in the form of 6,000 additional ticketless fans waiting to breach Wembley’s defences if England had won the shoot-out – or even fatalities.

One London emergency services official said they believed it would have been ‘horrific’ had Southgate’s men prevailed, and that a ‘major incident’ would have been declared. ‘We would have been on our knees,’ they added.

‘That it should happen at our national stadium on the day of our biggest game of football for 55 years is a source of national shame,’ Casey wrote, enshrining the idea in black and white for all to see.

In a damning report issued in the wake of the chaos, findings saw that fatalities were only narrowly avoided

Baroness Louise Casey – who spearheaded the report – dubbed events ‘a day of national shame’

In a bid to repair the reputation of Wembley and English football, the FA’s response has been swift and comprehensive

Speaking to journalists upon the publication of her report, Casey was adamant. ‘If we are a country that can’t get a grip of our fans, we have a problem and that’s what needs to be dealt with,’ she said.

‘There is something here about our national game that seems to be a vehicle for thuggery, hooliganism and racism and I would like to see Euro Sunday as a turning point.’

But has it been?

Since the publication of the report nearly three years ago, the Football Association’s response has been swift, and significant. Over £5million has been spent on gradual reinforcements to the stadium, as recommended in Casey’s report, with the first steps coming in 2022 with the securing of more vulnerable turnstiles and accessibility entrances.

Locks on all of the stadium’s perimeter doors were checked and reinforced, and work then began on the building of high reinforcements around the Club Wembley entrance, with the Athletic reporting that these security modifications had been made external and almost menacing ‘to act as a visual deterrant’. At the new Wembley, fans should know on sight how much harder it would be to break the ground’s defences.

New perimeter fencing and a tightened up of entrance points has taken place all around the grounds, including to those reserved for media, staff, and VIPs.

A mass of England fans outside the stadium pushed at the ticket barriers ahead of the match

England later had to play a match without fans after being handed a one-match ban by UEFA

A significant part of the money has been spent on improving CCTV in and around Wembley, while a second security control room big enough to house around 18 officers has been opened with the specific remit of monitoring events outside the stadium’s perimeter, including tube stations and local pubs.

The FA have also invested in providing additional body cameras for event stewards.

These measures have now been in place for some time, and with success – Manchester United’s FA Cup final victory against Manchester City took place under these enhanced conditions.

Further to the work put in place, Casey’s stocktake on the recommendations set out in her 2023 report was a positive one.

Based on the improvements as much as ‘the proactive and positive stance’ taken by the FA, Casey passed Wembley as ‘match-fit’ to host Saturday’s final.

But even more steps have been taken in preparation for UEFA’s showpiece clash – the organisation’s highest-profile contest since that Euro Sunday.

Most significant is the number of personnel involved in making sure Saturday night passes without incident. Over 2,500 security stewards are set to be deployed around the ground and its environs, the largest number in Wembley’s history.

Wembley was passed ‘match-fit’ by Casey in 2023 ahead of its hosting of Saturday’s final

Many of the security measures now in place were on display at last weekend’s FA Cup final

Unlike at the Euro 2020 final, where the stewards on hand came from a smaller, less experienced pool due to Covid-19-specific limitations, those working Saturday’s final have been vetted to higher stands and received improved training.

Even before entering the increasingly secured perimeter, authorities will be mitigating the risk of fan disorder with additional measures. While up to 12 hours before the 8pm kick-off three years ago, fans were allowed to gather and get increasingly drunk, Wembley Way and the surrounding areas will become alcohol-free zones.

With drugs also a considerable factor in the behaviour of unruly fans on Euro Sunday, sniffer dogs will be on patrol on Saturday evening, in attempts to identify those in possession of drugs.

For ticketed fans getting into the stadium, their digital UEFA App-accessible tickets will be checked at three different check points leading from Wembley Way, up the steps, and into the ground itself.

This is Wembley’s – and the FA’s – moment to shine again, four years before England, the home nations and the Republic of Ireland prepare to host Euro 2028. But as much as measures in place for Saturday’s final should represent a moment of optimism and a break from the past, it’s with a note of sadness as the turbulence which came before it.

The number of on-site security and stewards is the highest seen by Wembley in the venue’s history (pictured in 2023)

High perimeter fencing has been added to the ground to act as a visual deterrant to fans

FA director of tournaments Chris Bryant is confident that Saturday’s final will show Wembley back to its best

‘We want this event to be as successful as possible for every reason, not least for the fans and the event in itself, but we know a lot of people will think about the Euros final as well,’ Chris Bryant, the FA’s director of tournaments and events, said on Wednesday.

‘I can’t help but be incredibly sad when I watch the Netflix documentary (about the Euros final). That wasn’t the day that, be it for the fans or people working here, was right.

‘It was a difficult and disappointing day. It wasn’t the way we deserved to end the tournament. A massive amount of work has gone into this, an event of national significance and a chance to show London is fantastic at delivering big events, that Wembley is a home for big football matches and we do events like this very well.’

For the sake of Wembley – and England’s – reputation, the organisers behind the enhanced security measures for Saturday’s final can only hope that Bryant’s prophecy comes true.