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Football: Casey Review

Volume 816: debated on Monday 6 December 2021

Private Notice Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to The Baroness Casey Review: An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final Euro Sunday at Wembley, published on 3 December 2021.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, and I declare an interest as a vice-president of the charity Level Playing Field.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her thorough and important review. Her report rightly highlights that responsibility for the reckless and criminal behaviour at the Euro 2020 final lies with a small minority of individuals who sought to undermine the day for the overwhelming majority of fans. The UK has a long and successful record of hosting major international sporting events. The Government will now work with the police and football authorities to consider the report’s recommendations in full.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he not agree with me that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, has produced a truly devastating report, which everyone—the Football Association, the police and the Government—have to take seriously? She makes it clear in her report that we shall never know for sure how close we came to a huge disaster involving major loss of life, caused by 6,000 ticketless fans outside the stadium who were ready to storm inside had England won the penalty shootout. Will the Government pay particular attention to recommendation 6.a:

“Particular attention should be made to ensuring those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others”?

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s report is thorough and very significant, and it includes a number of very important recommendations for the football authorities, the police, the Government and many others. We will be looking at them all and making sure that lessons are learned so that the sorts of scenes we saw at the Euro final are not seen again.

My Lords, would the Minister take on the fact that it was actually a total breakdown of communication and intelligence that allowed this to happen? Will the Government undertake to ensure that all those groups—the FA, the football authorities, the Metropolitan Police, wherever they are in the country—when we have a game of this magnitude are required to talk to each other, and not at the last minute but before the event takes place?

There were meetings between the Metropolitan Police, the Government and others in the days running up to the final, but the noble Lord makes an important point about sharing intelligence during incidents such as these. I know that that was something that the noble Baroness looked into and it is one of the things that must be followed up.

My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her excellent report. We would expect nothing else from her but a high standard of product. The Euro 2020 final should have been a cause for pride and celebration, not life-threatening danger and shame. Of course, due to the nature of the disturbances at Wembley, it was not possible for the majority of the ticketless fans to be identified, ejected and, where appropriate, punished. During the recent Committee stage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we discussed whether those engaging in online racist abuse of sportspeople should be subject to banning orders, and we are hopeful that the Government will finally take action on this. Will the Minister now look more widely at what lessons must be learned from Wembley and whether the current banning-order system is enough to stop reckless behaviour at games? Does he agree that the Government should work more closely with the authorities and with clubs to improve the culture surrounding our national game? Without that change in culture, I fear that these instances will occur on other occasions.

The noble Lord is right that what should have been a happy and important day was marred, both by the racist abuse that we saw of some of the England players afterwards and by the disorder that the noble Baroness’s report addresses. In both of those instances, action has been taken to follow up. As noble Lords alluded to, the Government have set out that we will amend legislation to extend the use of football banning orders. However, legislation on its own is not the answer to disorder. That is why we will keep the legislation under review, but we will also be working with the football authorities and others to ensure that the minority of people who spoil days such as 11 July for the majority cannot do so.

My Lords, the Minister rightly referred to criminal behaviour. There is a mass of photographic evidence showing unmasked individuals behaving criminally. Can the Minister tell the House how many people have been charged with criminal offences, how many people have been convicted and what sentences have been imposed?

My Lords, I do not have those figures. However, as the noble Lord points out, where there is CCTV footage and with the further evidence gathered by the noble Baroness in her report, it is obviously for the prosecuting authorities—rightly separate from Government—to look at that and take the decisions they feel are appropriate.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the most damaging outcome of the events at Wembley—notwithstanding the success of the Olympic Games in London and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the undoubted soon-to-be success of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham—is that international sporting bodies will be reluctant to send prestigious events to be held in the United Kingdom?

I am pleased to say that the UK has a very strong track record in staging international sporting events, the vast majority of which go exceedingly well. We thank the noble Baroness for her report, to make sure that we have learned the lessons from this incident and will continue to do so in future.

My Lords, the football authorities have a long record of mismanagement, both domestically and internationally. Does the Minister believe that we need a regulator in the UK to start to get some control over our football and the way it is run?

That recommendation was taken up by my honourable friend Tracey Crouch in the fan-led review. The Government have accepted it in principle, but we will come back with our full response to the report and all its recommendations.

My Lords, I support the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, because that is something that would reassure the House and the public about how good the investigation has been. There is clear evidence, which we have all seen, and it should be available to the investigation. The problem with this type of event is that the crowd trying to get in often gets too close to the gates, by which time it is very difficult for anyone to intervene. One of the big things for Wembley is to see what can be done to prevent those without tickets getting anywhere near the gates. At that ground—though not at all grounds—it would be physically relatively straightforward. In time, it would be helpful for us to hear more about how architecture and engineering can make sure that this does not happen again.

The noble Lord of course speaks with great authority. The Football Association asked the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to undertake this review so that matters such as that can be looked into and, in due course, responded to properly. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank all the police and stewards who worked very bravely on the day to ensure that the situation did not escalate further and cause further injury or indeed loss of life.

My Lords, I am not accusing the Minister, but he seems to be conveying the impression that nothing is known about the circumstances of this. I am sure that is wrong; not least, how do several thousand people without tickets turn up at a match of such significance not just to the United Kingdom but internationally? It shamed our country and our football. Unless there is a thorough investigation into who organised this—I am quite sure it did not happen by accident—and what their purposes were in doing so, we shall never be able to say in future that it will not happen again.

I hope I am not conveying that impression. The report of the noble Baroness is very thorough and detailed; it was published on Friday and all those who will respond to it—the FA, the police and everybody else—need time to look at it with the detail and attention it deserves. However, the noble Lord is right to point to some of the things the noble Baroness found in her report: a lot of the people gathered there were not there to see the match—they were not even watching it on their mobile phones—but had the intention of causing disorder. It was a small minority of people who were intent on spoiling the day for the vast majority of people around the country and at Wembley who were enjoying it, and it is on them that we must focus our principal attentions.

My Lords, the noble Baroness produced her remarkably good report very speedily. We should acknowledge that; she did a splendid job. The Football Association has aspirations to host other international competitions very soon. Can the Minister assure the House that everything will be done at the speed set by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to make sure that lessons are learned before we get into the next international competition?

As ever, we need both speed and thoroughness. The noble Baroness achieved both in her report and it is incumbent on everyone responding to it to do the same. I am pleased to say that the heads of FIFA and UEFA have reassured us that the incident in July should not have an impact on the outcome of any current bidding processes. As I said, the UK has a strong track record of staging international sporting events, and it is a record of which we are rightly proud.

My Lords, if that is the case, what reassurance can my noble friend give the House this afternoon that families who take their young children to what should be a joyful sporting event will be safe and will not be exposed to the same dangers as happened on that day?

My noble friend makes an important point. It was families with young children, or people who were there with friends or family with disabilities, who were targeted by some of the people trying to get into the stadium. The noble Baroness’s report looked into some of those instances and came forward with recommendations on how to ensure that minorities intent on doing harm do not mar such important days for others.