The security breach at Wembley last week was shocking. A mob of England fans managed to bypass security and force their way into the stadium without a ticket. Numerous police officers and private security personnel were injured, children traumatised and ticket paying fans left without a good view of the game. Some fans even took matters into their own hands to fight back the gate crashers, further highlighting the chaotic security failings of the event. 

The mob appears to have overrun the outer security perimeter, and in another location, pushed over a temporary segregation fence. In other locations there were reports of people climbing over fences. Once inside the outer cordon, the mob were able to tailgate legitimate ticket holders through the turnstiles and force open disabled access doors and rush through. 

It appears the sheer volume of the mob meant they were able to overrun security. The saving grace perhaps is that the stadium was only at 75% capacity. If at 100% capacity, crushing stampedes would have been a real danger. 

How could things have gone so wrong? Obviously, the fact England made the final generated significant interest. The late 8pm kick off enabled many more fans to become highly intoxicated. The COVID restrictions over the last 18 months inevitably meant there was a lot of pent up tension. 

The Metropolitan police have admitted that they did not expect so many people to arrive without a ticket. The police and private security presence was too small. The physical security also clearly failed. Fences shouldn’t be falling over in high profile major events such as the Euros final. Perimeter doors shouldn’t be able to be forced open and people shouldn’t be able to tailgate legitimate fans through the turnstiles. 

The mob that managed to enter Old Trafford prior to a premier league match back in May could have been the inspiration. Social media would also have played a part, as fans shared videos and messages instantly highlighting security vulnerabilities.  The widely publicised success of some fans being able to enter the stadium without a ticket will inevitably inspire others to try this in the future as well.   More worrying is that this may inspire terrorists, with stadiums increasingly being seen as softer targets. 

Stadium operators should consider the changing threat landscape and update their risk assessments and security plans. Coordinated mob attack is more likely as fans are better connected through social media. Low paid security staff alone cannot and should not be expected to hold back violent crowds. Robust physical security layers designed and managed by event security specialists need to control crowds, with operational security overlaid to manage the crowds and oversee greater security scrutiny.  The FA will be undertaking their own review. Lessons will need to be learnt and actioned to avoid compromising the UK’s ambitions to host the 2030 World Cup. 

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