2024's summer of sports

2024 will see the men’s Euros and the Olympic and Paralympic games take place in neighbouring countries over the space of a couple of months. These are some of the world’s biggest sporting events and will need detailed and effective security planning.

Previous events of the last few years should serve as a learning platform of what to do and more importantly what not to do, when it comes to stadium security, with a few high-profile events standing out. 

The threats to large-scale sporting events are varied, and include ineffective policing and security planning, terrorist attacks, large numbers of ticketless fans and supporter violence.

Euro 2020, Wembley, 11 JULY 2021

The men’s Euros are due to take place in Germany in July.

The previous competition was delayed due to Covid, with the final taking place at Wembley on 11 July 2021. England’s first final appearance was marred by crowd disorder and racist abuse of players.     

The home final at Wembley came after a year of, and amid still ongoing Covid restrictions. 

Thousands of England fans collected at Wembley, well in advance of the game, and many without tickets. Police were forced to request that those without tickets did not travel to Wembley. Ticketless fans fought with stewards and police and tried to get into the stadium – and some achieved this. 86 people were arrested that day, including 53 at Wembley for offences including public order breaches, assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, and criminal damage.

Others were arrested later, including two men who were arrested on suspicion of stealing items that helped ticketless fans storm Wembley Stadium ahead of the final. Nineteen police officers were injured, as was Harry Maguire’s dad.

Following the game, which England lost to Italy on penalties, some members of the England team were racially abused online.     

Just after the event, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “Throughout the course of the Euros tournament, the vast majority of people have watched the matches responsibly and safely, and enjoyed the build up to last night’s final.

“However, the unacceptable scenes we saw yesterday were a small number of people intent on using the football as an excuse to behave appallingly towards other members of the public and officers.

“The reports of online hate crime abuse are utterly abhorrent and totally unacceptable. We have launched a post-event investigation and will actively pursue and investigate offenders and criminal offences.

“This behaviour is not welcome in London and I urge anyone who is being subjected to any abuse, both online and in person, to contact police and report it so the police can investigate thoroughly and accordingly.”

It was reported that about 2,000 people were able to get in illegally and there were 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors.

Casey report

A 129-page report looking into the report was later published by Baroness Louise Casey. She concluded that there was a “collective failure” of organisations involved in the planning of the game and said the incident was “a source of national shame”. It was highlighted that the Met deployed 553 officers, however, they were not deployed until 3pm. Crowds had been gathering since 9 o’clock in the morning.

Casey found that the stewards recruited for the match were lacking in experience and authority. The main entrance area to the stadium is owned by property group Quintain and discussions over how to manage it included six separate parties. However, Casey found that no one was deemed responsible for safety.

Brent council’s chief executive Carolyn Downs had previously expressed concerns about increasing disorder as the competition progressed.

Ticketless fans had previously tailgated their way into the semi-final against Denmark. Drugs are also believed to have played a significant role in the day, with 45 per cent of ticketed fans saying they had seen someone snorting drugs at Wembley that day.

Casey remarked: “If it had only been alcohol I’m not sure if people could have sustained themselves for that period.” It was also highlighted that the “hollowing out” of police resources over the last decade led the crowd to believe that there was less chance of them being stopped. Those that were involved in the disorder also knew that due to Covid restrictions, about 25,000 of the 90,000 seats would be empty.

CEO of the FA, Mark Bullingham, said: “We planned for this event in a bigger way than any event that’s ever been held at Wembley. We absolutely had more stewards, we had more security. What the review said is that rather than planning for it as an incremental event and learning lessons from previous events at Wembley, you’ve got to step back and almost view these events as a completely different nature.”


Baroness Casey recommended empowering authorities to act more strongly against drug use, flares and smoke bombs and people entering without a ticket. She also recommended an FA campaign to change attitudes, better communication between agencies overseeing the match and a new category for football matches of national significance. 

In her review, Baroness Casey said: “The events of Sunday 11 July 2021 (Euro Sunday) at Wembley Stadium were a ‘near miss’. I am clear that we were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many, in attendance. That this should happen anywhere in 21st century Britain is a source of concern. That it should happen at our national stadium, and on the day of our biggest game of football for 55 years is a source of national shame.

“I want to be very clear from the outset that responsibility for that risk to human life lies with the individuals without tickets – nearly all men, it has to be said – who attacked the stadium, successfully or otherwise. The drunkenness, drug taking, irresponsibility, criminality, and abuse of innocent people – including staff, families, and disabled ticket holders – was shocking and intolerable. I hope the police and other authorities continue to prosecute as many of the perpetrators as possible and the courts and football authorities apply the toughest possible punishments.

“Nevertheless, some of what happened was sadly foreseeable, even if the scale of it was not. And even if it had not been predictable, there are always wider lessons to be learned from such events. That is the opportunity of a near miss.”

She continued: “There is no question, however, that the day was spoiled by a horde of 6,000 or more ticketless fans, many of whom were no more than mindless thugs. The outpouring of vile racist abuse that followed in the days after only made this worse. These men may wear England shirts but they can’t be allowed to represent us.

I choose instead to be represented by the England team, and by organisations like the Football Supporters’ Association, who support all decent law-abiding football fans, England supporters or otherwise, and were on the ground to assist visiting Italian fans that day.” UEFA ordered England to play one match behind closed doors and the FA was fined 100,000 euros. Since then, phase one of improvement works related to Baroness Casey’s recommendations has been completed.

This includes making turnstiles and accessibility entrances more secure and having locks on all perimeter doors strengthened. There is also a new command and control centre, with more than 50 new CCTV cameras.

Champions League, Stade de France, 28 May 2022

The 2022 final of the men’s Champions League between Liverpool and Real Madrid made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Large numbers of fans were unable to gain access to the stadium in the build up to the game and French police used tear gas and pepper spray on Liverpool fans.

After the game, large groups attacked and mugged supporters of both teams as they left the venue. There were also widespread reports of sexual assault.

Blame Game

Though some attempted to blame fans for the chaos, an ‘independent’ report by UEFA, found that as event owner, UEFA was responsible for the failures that led to the “disaster”.

The report found that early on, congestion had built up around a narrow pedestrian underpass on the way to the turnstiles.

Police were requested to divert people away from here, but they were slow to act and fans remained trapped, whilst others joined them at the other end. According to the report, by 19:45, 75 minutes before kick off, police abandoned this area and withdrew along with stewards.

Thousands more people entered the space and the report concluded that there was “a clear and immediate danger of a fatal crush”. The decision was made to delay kick-off, though those outside the stadium did not know this and therefore fans still desperately tried to enter.

Police used tear gas and pepper spray and the report says: “It is remarkable that no one lost their life”. Announcements were made on the big screens and therefore to broadcasters around the world, that the delay was due to supporters arriving late. The report states that this claim was objectively untrue.

The report also points out that several entities, including French ministers, UEFA and others blamed Liverpool supporters trying to enter without valid tickets for the events that unfolded. Again, this report indicates that this was not true.

The report states: “It has been a feature of our investigations that several key stakeholders have not accepted responsibility for their own failures but have been quick to attribute blame to others. Some have continued to make allegations – in particular against supporters – based upon ‘facts’ for which there is no evidence.

Assertions that late, ticketless supporters were either the primary cause or contributed to the dangerous events have a particular resonance with Hillsborough where similar allegations were made 33 years ago and persisted for decades before being comprehensively disproved.” The similarities with Hillsborough are hard to ignore.


The report concluded that there were two organisational failures at the route of what went wrong.

This is that the UEFA model for organising the event was defective as there was an absence of overall control or oversight of safety and security – similar to what was pointed out at the Wembley incident.

The second failure is that the safety, security and service model which is laid out in the Saint-Denis Convention, was put aside in favour of a security approach “inappropriately based on incorrect assumptions that Liverpool FC supporters posed significant threats to public order.”

The report pointed out that the police “adopted a model aimed at a non-existent threat from football hooligans”. Intelligence from UEFA, Liverpool, Real Madrid and police forces from both countries indicated that there had been no significant incidents of football-related violence from either club in recent years.

These assumptions led to an ineffective policing model. Defective policing was also highlighted when discussing the attacks by locals in the aftermath of the game. Aside from security measures, defective route planning was also highlighted as a contributing factor with too many people being directed to take a single train line which led to congestion. The panel also concluded that despite some reports, there was not an extraordinarily large number of people trying to access the game without tickets.

The report also highlighted two years of Covid restrictions and a late change of venue away from St Petersburg, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as possible contributing factors. The report makes 21 recommendations. These recommendations include creating internal compliance mechanisms within UEFA and constructing a process to ensure that the recommendations from the panel are implemented.

It is recommended that host stadiums have well managed security perimeters, welcome services & crowd guidance and orientation and that it is a formal requirement of the bidding process that the police will commit to compliance with the Convention. The report recommends that UEFA should move rapidly towards digital ticketing and that medical and first aid personnel should always be visible and accessible.

Euro Qualifier, Brussels, October 2023

This year’s Euros has already been hit by a terrorist attack. In October 2023, two Swedish nationals were shot dead in Brussels, Belgium on the same day as a qualifier for the 2024 Euros between the two countries was taking place.

The victims were on their way to the game when they were killed and were wearing Swedish shirts. The attack was carried out by Abdesalem Lassoued, who fled the scene, and was killed the next day by police. He posted a video online in which he claimed responsibility for the attack and said he was inspired by Islamic State. It was later revealed that an extradition request by Tunisia in August 2022 had not been followed up by Belgian magistrates. It was reported that in 2005, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Tunisia for crimes including attempted murder.

He escaped prison, travelled on a small boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa, then moved to Belgium, where his application for asylum was rejected. Tunisian authorities put in an extradition request, which was received by Belgium officials but not processed. Understaffing was blamed for this.

The attacker had previously applied for asylum in Norway, Sweden and Italy. Italian intelligence officials identified him as radicalised in 2016 and began to monitor him.

He had also served a prison sentence in Sweden for drug trafficking – two years for possessing 100g of cocaine.

This attack was the fifth deadly Islamist terrorist attack in Belgium since 2014. It was reported that the attacker had targeted Swedish people, possibly in revenge for recent Quran burnings in Sweden.

The second half of the game was abandoned after news of the attack spread, with spectators being held in the stadium until around midnight and then evacuated. Swedish fans are reported to have removed Swedish garments when travelling after the game.

The game was not replayed, and both teams approved the decision as the result would not impact who qualified from that group. Belgium will play in the tournament, but Sweden did not qualify.

The failings here are again cited as understaffing in public authorities and lack of communication between security authorities – this time across different countries.

Champions League, April 2024

As recently as April, there were terrorist threats made against Champions League games. A pro-IS media channel called for attacks against venues hosting quarter finals in England, France, Spain and Germany. Security was stepped up and the games took place without incident.

FA Cup, West Brom, January 2024

There have also been incidences of ‘supporter’ violence over recent years. The most notable of these for British fans would be the clashes between Wolves and West Brom fans at an FA Cup game in January.

The game was the first Black Country derby held in front of fans in 12 years.

Violence broke out in the stands after Wolves scored their second goal in the 78th minute. Opposition supporters were seen fighting each other and others invaded the pitch.

The game was halted and players left the pitch. Footage circulated online showing a man covered in blood being escorted away by police, while opposition supporters seemed to chant “let him die”.

There were flares in the away end, objects thrown at Tommy Doyle as he attempted to take a corner and a ball boy needed treatment after being hit with a missile.

The area that saw the violence, was close to where the families of the West Brom players were seated. Some players ran into the crowd, with Kyle Bartley carrying his child out. When the match resumed, he was substituted so he could remain with his children.

The stand where the violence occurred was supposed to only house the West Brom fans.

However, it is believed the violence began after some Wolves fans revealed themselves by celebrating the goal.

Due to the rivalry between the two teams, the game was deliberately scheduled early to avoid day drinking and also allocated extra police officers.

European football

A month before the above incident, forty-six Legia Warsaw fans were arrested after violence at a European tie with another West Midlands team, Aston Villa. Four police officers were injured in the violence with deputy chair of the West Midlands Police Federation saying at the time, that it was the worst football violence police had seen for decades. 

Police horses were punched and kicked and police dogs were injured after walking on broken glass. It is believed the violence began as 1,000 away fans were not given tickets. Aston Villa lodged a complaint with UEFA over the lack of co-operation by Legia club officials.

The game went ahead but, the Legia Warsaw fans were barred from entry. Some did manage to get in, but were kicked out when they were discovered.

A special court had to be set up at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to hear the cases. In December, fans were banned from all top-flight games in Greece after widespread violence and a riot in which a police officer was left with life-threatening injuries.

Following this, all 14 top-flight clubs will have to install surveillance cameras inside stadiums and use personalised ticketing systems that identify fans before they enter. In France in October, an Olympique de Marseille v Olympique Lyonnais game was called off, when the away bus was hit with stones and beer bottles and the coach was injured.

Looking forward

All of the above are relatively high-profile men’s football matches – other sports do not seem to be the scene of such serious incidents. 

Though the men’s Euros will take place in Germany this year, which has not seen such occurrences, there is still understandable concern that similar events may take place. It is hoped that lessons have been learnt from the police response to Wembley and the Stade de France, but the threats to the Champion’s League this year, also targeted Germany, where the threat from terrorism is considered to be high. There will also be football at the Olympics in Paris.

The men’s rugby world cup passed in France last year without serious incident. However, what occurred at the Stade de France – a venue that will be used during this year’s Olympics and Paralympics – is still fresh in people’s minds. There are many British, Spanish and French people, and others who will have seen what happened that would rather stay away for fears over their safety.

Preparing for Paris

The BBC reported that the French government has cut the number of spectators who will be able to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics from the banks of the Seine, as they were worried about threats such as drone attacks.

Originally free tickets were going to be given to 600,000 members of the public. However, now there will only be tickets for 300,000 invited guests. President Macron even said the event could be moved to the Trocadero Gardens or the Stade de France if the risk was deemed too high.

There will be 20,000 soldiers and more than 40,000 police officers from France providing security, along with 2,000 troops and police officers from other countries. Security services have also begun screening around one million people who will be involved in the games, including athletes, medical staff and volunteers, as well as those who live near the venue. Germany has also stepped up security ahead of the Euros in June, including by introducing land border checks.


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