What happened at Wembley at the Euro 2020 final?

Netflix documentary The Final: Attack on Wembley chronicles the chaos on 11 July 2021

England fans outside Wembley ahead of the Euro 2020 final
The Final: Attack on Wembley examines the events of the Euro 2021 final where England played Italy. (Netflix)

New Netflix documentary The Final: Attack on Wembley chronicles the chaos that ensued when floods of ticketless football fans tried to force their way into Wembley Stadium during the 2020 European Championship final.

According to the documentary’s official synopsis, “As England supporters arrived at Wembley from all corners of the country, celebration quickly turned to chaos. Mayhem took over with scenes of drunkenness and drug-taking, and ticketless fans saw an opportunity to storm the stadium.

“With compelling first-hand testimony and visceral user-generated-content, this is the dramatic story of a day that began with euphoria, and ended in a nation left reeling.”

It’s a sad event that many will no doubt still vividly remember — but what actually happened at Wembley during the Euro 2020 final and what were the circumstances leading up to the incident?

England fans waving flares at the Euro 2020 final
The Final: Attack on Wembley chronicles the chaotic event. (Netflix)

The Euro 2020 final saw England face off against Italy at Wembley Stadium on 11 July 2021.

The event should have been a cause for celebration thanks to Gareth Southgate leading his England squad to its first final since 1966. However, scenes outside the stadium quickly turned dangerous when thousands of ticketless supporters — many drunk or intoxicated on various substances — surged the gates and tried to storm their way into the venue.

Compounding this trouble were COVID-19 social distancing restrictions which had been in place for a number of months and forced the event to be postponed from its original date in 2020.

With months spent largely indoors, anticipation for the 2021 final was high, with many supporters gathering outside Wembley Stadium before the match began.

The Guardian compared pre-match scenes to a “war zone” while those in attendance are quoted as calling it “a battleground” with “trash everywhere, trees being pulled and England fans forcing their way up stairs to the stadium and causing crushes.”

England fans breaking past police at the Euro 2020 final
19 police officers were hurt in the chaos. (Netflix)

Fans were not allowed into the venue until 5pm but large queues quickly gathered. Because of COVID restrictions, 25,000 of Wembley’s 90,000 seats were left empty, and this gave some fans the idea that they could force their way into the stadium without a ticket.

It wasn’t long before crowds overpowered Wembley ticket-checkers and began forcing their way into the building. People began to try and fight their way into the stadium, destroying barriers and confronting police and Wembley security in order to get in.

Those caught up in the craziness reported fans trying their luck and attempting to gain entry without a ticket only to simply rejoin the queue and try again as soon as they were turned away. Other reports suggest ticketless attendees were tailgating ticketholders through barriers or flat-out barrelling past those hired to check tickets.

Staff first tried to face this behaviour by closing the ticket turnstiles into the stadium, but they were eventually reopened in order to let ticket holders in. It was a catch-22 situation.

A huge number of ticketless fans were able to get into the stadium by pushing in through turnstiles directly behind those who did have tickets. One such person features in the Netflix documentary, who admitted he didn’t feel “ashamed” to have snuck into the stadium.

There was also a crowd of fans who tried to storm Wembley’s Spanish Steps in order to get into the stadium. They were met by police who kept them back.

Chaos also took place at fan events in Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square in central London, where there were reports of antisocial behaviour and objects being thrown. Scenes of the chaos at Wembley quickly made their way online, with many outraged at the behaviour on display.

By the time the dust had settled, the incident had resulted in 86 arrests for charges like criminal damage and drunk and disorderly conduct. 53 of these were at Wembley Stadium and a total of 19 police officers were injured.

England fans swarming a car at the Euro 2020 final
The FA apologised for the violent scenes after a damning report was published. (Netflix)

A damning report published in December 2021 said the disorder could have “led to significant injuries or even death” following a “perfect storm of lawlessness” carried out by “mindless thugs”. The review, carried out by Dame Louise Casey, also found that authorities failed to plan for the “worst-case scenario” and that around 2,000 ticketless supporters stormed the stadium.

The FA subsequently apologised for the “terrible experience” many fans endured. The FA CEO Mark Bullingham said: “Everyone at the FA was appalled at the significant levels of crowd disorder... 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.”

England lost the game on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

The Final: Attack on Wembley is streaming on Netflix now