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UEFA Euro 2020 Final

Volume 825: debated on Wednesday 30 November 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the conclusions of the report by Baroness Casey of Blackstock An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley, published on 3 December 2021; and what plans they have to publish a full response to that report.

My Lords, the safety of spectators at sporting events is of the highest importance to His Majesty’s Government. We continue to work closely with all relevant authorities to ensure that football fans can continue to enjoy the sport while attending matches safely. This review was commissioned by and reported to the Football Association, and the Government were referred to in four of its recommendations. Our approach with respect to those recommendations is outlined in our evidence to the DCMS Committee inquiry into safety at major sporting events, a copy of which I have placed in the Library.

My Lords, I had to introduce the current football banning order system as emergency legislation some 22 years ago. It works well to punish offenders identified by the police and football clubs, and they work well with the CPS. Stake- holders believe that a refresh is needed. They want us to intervene early. They want to better educate fans, improve advice for stewards and create a new offence tackling turnstile tailgating. Do the Government have a plan to bring forward these revisions to tackle increases in football-related disorder, or is this another issue that will be put on the back burner?

My Lords, the Home Office has already implemented a series of changes in relation to the existing football banning order legislation, building on the work that the noble Lord took when in government. This includes adding football-related online hate crime to the list of offences for which a banning order can be imposed on conviction, amending the threshold for the imposition of a banning order, extending the legislation to the women’s domestic game, and adding football-related class A drugs crimes to the list of offences, but we continue to keep all this under review.

My Lords, can the Minister give us a little more advice about what this reaction will mean? Have the Government identified when the next football match of national significance will be? That should have happened with the Euro finals. Have we got an intelligence profile in place to give us a better chance of spotting this in future?

The match at the centre of the noble Baroness’s report was clearly of national significance and an unparalleled situation. The current system for designating risk levels for football matches is determined by the police, so the Government believe that this is rightly an operational matter. It is not for us to create a separate system for classifying those matches and going over the heads of the police. However, we continue to ensure that appropriate resources are available to the police and others to ensure the safe delivery of major sporting events.

My Lords, there was a highly aggressive crowd on that night back in July. Two thousand people gained access without tickets; there were 17 mass breaking-of-security incidents. Can the Minister explain exactly what lessons can be learned by the police and what will be done in future to prevent this sort of incident?

There were lessons for a number of parties in the noble Baroness’s report. The action taken by the Government includes extending football banning orders in the way that I have described and commissioning the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to conduct and act on research about stewarding capacity throughout the live events sector. We have led the relevant authorities in considering the recommendations that the noble Baroness made on “Zone Ex” and designations.

My Lords, one of the conclusions of the independent review was the over-reliance on inexperienced and poorly paid stewards. What is the Government’s response to this now that the UK and Ireland are pitching for the Euro 2028 tournament, which requires safety and security for 10 stadiums across five countries?

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority commissioned on behalf of DCMS research on the sustainability of stewarding—not just in relation to football matches but live events more generally—looking at challenges such as recruitment and retention as well as training and experience, as the noble Lord mentioned. The authority is now working with football’s governing bodies and others to address the challenges identified in the research, and the Government continue to review challenges in the stewarding sector in light of the successful summer of sport that we have just enjoyed.

My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of their own activities in respect of that particular football match—for example, the very late decision, pressed on everybody by the Government, to increase the numbers who could attend?

On the points which the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, raised in relation to the Government and the four recommendations which had action for us, we have outlined our response in our evidence to the Select Committee inquiry, which I have placed in the Library. The noble Baroness’s report was not a report to the Government but to the Football Association, but we have carefully considered the recommendations for us and acted on them in consultation with interested parties.

My Lords, about 30 years ago, I was a volunteer steward. The deal was that you were not paid, but you got to see some of the good gigs and games in return for also stewarding some of the bad or less interesting games. You took that as a deal. But when it came to it, there was very little training, following the noble Lord’s question earlier. Is my noble friend the Minister aware of what training stewards are provided with, whether they are volunteers or paid?

This falls into the work that the Sports Grounds Safety Authority has conducted in light of the noble Baroness’ review. My noble friend makes important points: I think that a lot has been done since the days he worked as a steward, but there is a lot more still to be done.

Does the Minister agree that one of the major problems last summer at the final was alcohol? Does he further agree that although there are many reasons for criticising the Qataris in relation to the World Cup, they may have discovered that to exclude alcohol from the vicinity of the ground—apart, of course, from executive boxes—helps to ensure a tolerable atmosphere for those who want to watch the football in a family-friendly environment?

Certainly, as I have done when we have previously discussed this, I condemn the actions of a minority of people—in lots of instances, fuelled by alcohol—which spoiled the day for the law-abiding majority who wanted to go and enjoy the match. Of course, alcohol consumption at football matches has been considered by Tracey Crouch and the fan-led review, which also made the point that allowing clubs in the lower leagues to sell alcohol might give them an important sustainable income stream. We are considering the recommendations that she has made, and will bring forward views in due course.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord. Has the Minister considered ensuring that we share some intelligence and data from the games that have been played in Qatar, from their impactful management of fans, and apply that to lessons for our application for 2028? Can I also take the opportunity to congratulate England on a wonderful win last night?

I certainly echo the noble Baroness’s final comments—I see that she is sitting next to a noble Lord who might take a different view; diplomatically, I shall not intrude on that. She will be pleased to know that we continue to work with our international partners to ensure that we share the expertise that the police and other operational partners have in delivering major events. We had a good record of doing that this summer.

My Lords, as a Scot, I had no dog in the fight last night, but I none the less congratulate England on qualifying. Further to the point about alcohol at that final in July last year, a big issue also was supporters using cocaine, of which there was photographic evidence. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Football Association about ensuring that the use of such drugs is at the very least limited among those entering the stadium?

As I said, the Government have taken action to extend football banning orders to cover offences including the selling and taking of class A drugs at football games, which certainly had an effect on some of the disorder that we saw. We are taking forward action both as a Government and with policing partners.

My Lords, I recall many years ago policing a match at Feethams in Darlington. I caught three youths climbing over the fence. I made them go back in to watch the end of the match, which I thought was a suitable punishment.

Would it be possible for the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to undergo some rigorous training as a steward, with specific responsibility for discouraging the consumption of alcohol at football matches?

My Lords, pending the outcome of the review by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, there might be roles as stewards for Members from across your Lordships’ House, not just for my noble friend Lord Kamall.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that rugby fans drink a lot of beer, but you do not have problems at rugby games? Does he know why that is?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. Consumption of alcohol in a responsible manner is an important part of an enjoyable day out for many people. For other sports and lower down the leagues, it can be an important source of income for clubs. That is why we want to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol and adherence to the law, so that everybody can enjoy a safe day out when going to a sporting match.