To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made with football authorities towards addressing the (1) safety, and (2) security, implications of the report by Baroness Casey of Blackstone An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley, published on 3 December 2021.
My Lords, I begin by putting on record again our appreciation of the sterling work of the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, on this review. The Government recognise the critical importance of the safety and security implications of her report. We are now working with relevant parties, including the police and the football authorities, to consider not only those implications but the report’s recommendations in full. We are committed to ensuring that the UK continues its world-leading reputation for holding safe and successful major international sporting events.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, described the crowd events at Wembley’s Euro final as a “near miss” for fatalities and life-changing injuries and said that we need a national conversation about kicking racism and hooliganism out of football. Can the Minister tell us what plans the Government have for taking forward her six recommendations in full to improve safety, security and behaviour at football matches? Why did the Government not use the recent opportunity of a police Bill to incorporate new tailgating and drug-disorderly football banning orders, and to create a new offence of endangering public safety, as the report recommended?
My Lords, we acknowledge that the review shows that these events were foreseeable, but they were unprecedented. As in the previous exchange we had on this, it is important to underline that the blame lies squarely with the minority of supporters who caused the disorder and aimed to spoil the day for everybody else. It is clear that in future, we must ensure that the safety and security arrangements for an event such as this are in line with its national significance. The review was commissioned by the FA, so the Government do not intend to respond formally as the Government; the key thing is taking action. We are working with partners to ensure that we learn from it and that the recommendations are appropriately implemented. I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his recommendations on the online abuse of footballers, which were taken forward in the police Bill.
My Lords, will the Government go a little further on their attitude to some of the recommendations in the report, predominantly that the stewards—the people inside provided by football to look after its own—were insufficient in number and not properly trained for this event? Could not the Government take this forward with the police to ensure that we have security at such events and do not overload our police forces?
As I said, we are working with the police on the implications of the noble Baroness’s report. Work is also being undertaken by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to gather evidence on stewarding. Once that is concluded, the Government will work with it and other relevant parties to see how the findings are applicable not just to football but across the events industry.
My Lords, this event brought shame and disgrace on our country as a whole, as well interfering with the championship game. The Minister mentioned the involvement of the police. How close have the police so far got to identifying who was behind this event? You do not produce 6,000 people storming a national football stadium very easily, so someone must have organised it. Are the police pursuing that line of interest?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right that some of the actions that we saw on 11 July were shameful. The report is clear that the responsibility for the reckless and criminal behaviour lies with the shameful individuals who perpetrated it. The police have made 39 arrests and the investigations are continuing. I am afraid I cannot give more of an update on those police inquiries beyond that, but action is being taken by the police in this matter.
My Lords, in the discussions that the Government are having with the football authorities, could they also have one with the EFL about the appalling way it seems to be communicating its attitude towards the future of Derby County Football Club, which was one of the founding members of the Football League? The EFL seems to be deliberately withholding information. Perhaps one way out of this would be to make it subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
My Lords, the Government continue to engage closely with the EFL about Derby County. Ultimately it is for the EFL, the administrator and the club to resolve the issues that remain in order to ensure the survival of the club, but the Government have urged pragmatism from all parties to find a solution. Everyone wants to see one of the founding members of the Football League continue this season and beyond under appropriate ownership, and openness and transparency are a key part of that.
My Lords, the Minister will recall that on 6 December he answered a Private Notice Question on the excellent report by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, when I declared my interest as vice-president of the charity Level Playing Field. Particular recommendations were made in respect of disabled supporters, disabled access to the stadium and the disgraceful way in which thugs effectively overran them. Would he be willing to meet representatives of Level Playing Field—the chairman, the chief executive and perhaps me—to discuss what the next steps should be?
The noble Lord is right that the way in which football fans with disabilities, their friends and those accompanying them were tailgated and exploited by people intent on doing disorder was shameful. I think a meeting with my honourable friend the Sports Minister would be more appropriate. I am sure he would be very happy to do that, and I will follow that up with the noble Lord.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister agrees that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, deserves great credit for the speed with which she produced her thorough report, which is very practical and is to be taken seriously. But, my goodness, since then it seems to those of us who have been following this that very little action has been taken on her recommendations, yet incidents continue to happen at football grounds, as has been reported in recent games. Could the Minister use his good offices to encourage the Football Association and others to address the report, not just thoroughly but with some speed?
I am happy to echo what the noble Lord says about not only the speed but the thoroughness with which the noble Baroness undertook this work. The report’s recommendations are extremely valuable and are being taken forward by the relevant parties. The Football Association has apologised for its role in what happened on 11 July, as is right. The Government are working with the FA, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, the police and others to make sure that they are taking the appropriate action on the recommendations that relate to each of them.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a director of Carlisle United Football Club. When the Minister refers to working with the football authorities, will he bear in mind that on an average weekend more people attend Football League matches than attend Premier League matches? When the Government are working with the football authorities, will they constantly remind them of that fact?
The noble Lord is right and he makes an important point. The vast majority of people who enjoy playing and watching football do so peacefully and bring great enjoyment and health benefits to themselves and those around them. It was a minority of people on 11 July who marred what should have been a very special day for football fans, not just in this country but around the world, and it is right that the blame for what happened lies squarely on them.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, talked about how important it is to make sure that we save Derby County Football Club. My club is Millwall, but I have been to Derby County many times, both to the old Baseball Ground and to Pride Park. It is a fabulous club; it needs our support, and the Government need to press the Football League to save it.
My Lords, we are seeing increasing pressure being put on match day stewards, who are paid as little as £9 per hour to control football crowds, while police presence in many grounds is decreasing. Is this the way to face off the increasing challenge of rising violence across all four divisions? Surely we need an increase in police presence. Does the Minister agree?
The noble Baroness’s review clearly stated that many stewards showed huge bravery and courage that day. The action taken by them and by the police in difficult and unprecedented circumstances may have saved lives, so we should be grateful to them all. An unprecedented number of police were deployed to the stadium, but the noble Baroness’s report makes some important recommendations for the police, for stewards, for the FA and for others, and we are making sure that they are all taken forward, as they should be.