Football in England is broken beyond repair. We need a new controlling agency

By Tony Attwood

On Radio 4 in the UK today there was a discussion of the events at Wembley for the Euro 2020 final.  And yet despite a fulsome piece on the subject, the interviewer completely failed to ask a representative of the FA, “Why did you not realise this could happen?”

The reason that the FA should have known – and would have known had they had any thought on the matter at all – is that this match was completely different from others.

Normally a match either sells out or has places available.  In the latter case, people tend to buy a ticket rather than try and break-in.  In the former case, anyone breaking in would have nowhere to sit to watch the game, so would immediately be visible to stewards and officials, and so could be removed.

This time, with plenty of seats not sold, it is clear that anyone who got into the ground would be able to sit and watch, and not be challenged.

Those of us who watch the actions of the FA knew this then, and after.  Yet still, all this time later, the FA and the media meander around the subject, refusing to deal with the key point.  Lots of people knew that this was a different setup and there could be trouble.   But the FA were either too stupid to realise this, or too set in their ways to do anything.

Or perhaps most likely, knew they could always blame someone else.  After all, they always have before.  As when the sailed on for years breaking all the rules of the Charity Commissioners, failing to keep proper records of who they were giving money from the Charity Shield to.

Now in saying the FA were clearly to blame I am not trying to say that those who broke in were not criminals.  Rather I am saying that the problems that arose could have been stopped by proper checks on tickets before the ground was reached.

So yes, as the report into the incident mentions, Wembley became a warzone, but the FA will not (as ever) take responsibility.

Scotland Yard is blamed in Baroness Casey’s 129-page report, which also says the FA were lucky no one died, and that “some of what happened was sadly foreseeable.”

Apart from the other errors, the police didn’t get into position until 3pm although there were huge crowds at the ground from 9am onward with mass drug tacking and drunkenness.  By noon reports say 10,000 fans had already arrived in the Wembley area. But no police.  47% of the people who responded to the enquiry said they saw drug-taking.  But no police.

As a result covid testing was stopped.   Subsequently, there was a significant rise in covid cases – thus leading to the latest variant at the time being called the Uefa Variant.

The Met come in for criticism for having made the assumption that problems would arise after the game when there was no evidence to support this notion.  Someone just thought it, and that was that.

Unfortunately, this report was commissioned by the FA.  And so although it is patently obvious that the problems were caused by ineptitude, incompetence and a totally lackadaisical attitude by the FA who failed to realise the consequence of their own decision to restrict ticket sales, the FA is still there, still in charge of organising matches, and still blaming other people.

It never is the FA’s fault.  That’s what we learn every single time.  Whatever it is, the FA is never to blame.

The FA has released a statement saying, “The FA apologises for the terrible experience that many suffered within Wembley on what should have been a historic night for the game. Everyone at The FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder throughout the day on 11 July.

“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…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.”

In short, it was the circumstances that were at fault.  Not the FA.

Never the FA.

The FA and the corruption files