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November 7, 2023


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Is Wembley ready to host Euro 2028? The security lessons learned for stadia from the Casey Report

It was announced in October that Wembley will host a third football Euros final in seven years, after UK and Ireland were awarded the Men’s Euro 2028 tournament host rights. Have lessons been learned from a security perspective since the disastrous events of the Euro 2020 final, however, when 2,000 unruly fans gained forced entry into the stadium?


Mithun Thekkumbadan, Associate Security Consultant at Buro Happold

Here, Mithun Thekkumbadan, Associate Security Consultant at Buro Happold, takes a timely look at the learnings from the independent review of that day. Mithun details the technical security takeaways from the Casey Report for stadia, highlighting the challenges of balancing emergency egress and access control, as well as summarising the security upgrades the stadium has undergone since.

IFSEC Insider long-read: Key takeaways

  • The Casey Report identified a “perfect storm” of circumstances that led to the events where 2,000 fans gained forced entry into Wembley Stadium in 2021
  • Stadia must balance the differing aims of safety with emergency egress systems, and security with access control measures
  • Stadium designers and security managers must learn the lessons from the Casey Report, especially with the UK set to host the Men’s Euro 2028 tournament

On Sunday 11 July 2021, England hosted Italy at Wembley stadium for the Euro 2020 final.

It was meant to be an occasion of national pride, showcasing the very best England had to offer, both from a footballing and organisational perspective. The country as a whole was slowly recovering from the shocks of the pandemic and “Euro Sunday” was the perfect opportunity for the nation to join in celebration.

However, what occurred was a shocking set of events from a mob of unruly and riotous English football fans, which tarnished the reputation of the Football Association (FA) and the country.

In the weeks following, the FA commissioned Baroness Casey to conduct an independent review of the events that took place on that day. Her report, titled “An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final ‘Euro Sunday’ at Wembley”, was published in December 2021.

The report offers detailed insight into critical events. It also highlighted to security professionals and concerned football fans alike, the causality of a “perfect storm” of circumstances on security and safety in stadia.

The findings of the Casey Report form the basis of this article, where we will primarily focus on technical security aspects, such as access control & safe egress.

Summary of the Casey report

The report describes in forensic detail how English fans breached the stadium perimeter and were able to gain access into the stands. The Review analysed the lead up to the event, chronology on the day and provides operational detail undertaken by the various stakeholders.

The Review team had access to thousands of hours of Video Surveillance System (VSS) footage, from within and external to the stadium. They also conducted detailed surveys and interviews with various stakeholders including Brent City Council (BCC), Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Wembley fans and others, producing supplementary independent reports attached as appendices. These formed the evidentiary basis of the Review.

The Review made a total of eight recommendations. Five for national consideration, aimed primarily at the government and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and three for the FA, Wembley and key partners.

Further reading: Wembley Stadium Euros chaos: Could facial recognition have been used to improve security and prevent disorder?

Events on the day

As noted previously, the Review described the conditions that day as a “perfect storm” of circumstances, these were:

  • Major footballing event in more than a decade, first of its kind as Covid-19 restrictions were easing throughout the country
  • The reduced seating capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions (67,000 out of 90,000) meant that there were empty seats – everyone was aware of this fact
  • Most significant factor was that there were no large fan zones or dispersal zones near the stadium or elsewhere in London, which precipitated a large influx of fans to Wembley

The Review noted that of the roughly 100,000 people that visited Wembley that day, 2,000 gained forced entry into the stadium without any valid tickets.

The report concluded that were 17 mass breaches over a period of 90 minutes before kick-off until the penalty shootout.

Eight of these breaches were successfully repelled by stewards and others such as the MPS. The main breaches into the stadium were through the disabled gates and through the illegal use of the emergency egress doors.

Technical analysis of events

The Casey Report is very thorough in its analysis of “Euro Sunday”. Broadly, the events, responses and measures can be categorised into three security factors:

  • Situational – These were the perfect storm conditions that occurred during the day
  • Operational – These were the actions taken by the MPS, Wembley stewards and FA staff
  • Technical – These were the security measures in place during the day including VSS, access control and fencing

Figure 1: Security factors on “Euro Sunday”

The ‘technical’ point shall be the key focus of this article, specifically with regards to physical access control on the perimeter of the stadium.

The Review identified three types of mass perimeter breaches into the stadium, these were:

  • Breaches of pass gates: These occurred when individuals used the disabled pass gates to force themselves into the space, as stadium security were ejecting tailgaters through these gates. The pass gates are entry vestibules with two sets of doors used for disabled entry. Individuals used either force or subterfuge (such as impersonating a steward) to try to illegally gain access.
  • Breaches of emergency egress doors from internal to the stadium: These occurred multiple times at various gates within the stadium. Individuals would illegally gain entry into the stadium and then by operating the emergency panic bar, allow other individuals to gain entry from the external concourse.
  • Breaches of emergency egress doors from external to the stadium: These occurred when individuals externally on the concourse illegally gained entry into the stadium by using large amount of force and basic tools to open the doors.

Figure 2: Disabled pass gate at Gate H, where 200 people broke through

Finally, there were also breaches at the full height turnstiles where individuals tailgated validated ticket holders. This however was not considered as a mass breach.

It is clear from the analysis, that the majority of the mass breaches occurred at the final emergency egress doors. At Wembley, these doors were fitted with electromagnetic locks, which provided security staff a means of access control and remote release. However, in the event of an emergency, and for safety reasons, typically all access control on final emergency egress doors should be released.

These differing aims of safety and security pose a tough dilemma for both security designers and building operators.

Access control vs Emergency egress

Crowd safety is paramount at large public gatherings either indoors or outdoors. However, there is always a fine balance to be achieved between security and safety.

If a generic stadium or indoor arena is used as an example, balancing access control and emergency egress could be achieved by electronically locking the emergency egress doors. These doors should release in the event of a confirmed emergency or fire, but restricts any individual from engaging the panic bar in non-emergency situations.

There is also a means by which a timed delay can be introduced into this operation. This would buy the security safety operator valuable seconds or minutes to make a key decision.

Design for delayed egress doors for sports venues are dictated by the British standard BS EN 13637 and by the SGSA Green guide (6th Edition).

While both provide technical and operational guidance on how to safely secure egress doors. There are subtle differences between the two, as shown in the figure below.


Figure 3 Technical and operational comparison of British standard for delayed egress and the Green guide

The primary difference is the time delay requirement, either 15 or 180 seconds, contained within BS EN 13637. The second differentiation is the requirement for a visual countdown timer/indicator, when a delayed egress element (panic bar or green break glass unit) is initiated.

As noted in the table, there are additional technological solutions which can aid operators. These include utilising video surveillance devices with video analytics modules, such as sterile zone and directional movement detection.

These solutions have similar goals, which provide the operator with vital visual and behavioural intelligence, prior to making an informed decision on crowd safety and security.

How has security design changed at Wembley?

If we look at Wembley stadium today, there have been several recent security upgrades. These include:

  • Installation of stronger electromagnetic locks
  • Installation of 50 new high resolution video surveillance devices
  • Amendments to the disabled pass gates
  • Most recently, planning permission has been granted for the installation of a 3.6m high fence at certain entry points along with roller shutters

WembleyStadium-PerimeterSecurity-London-23It is important to emphasise that individual technological and physical upgrades, such as those mentioned above, should not be considered in isolation. It is clear from the Review that, the heroes on “Euro Sunday” were the well-trained and competent stadium operations teams and police staff. They utilised various means to aid them making vital decisions, which resulted in the containment of breaches into the stadium.

UEFA have recently awarded the associations of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland & the Republic of Ireland to jointly host the Euro 2028 tournament. 10 stadia in total would host the 51 games.

It is imperative that stadium directors and security managers implement the hard lessons learnt from the Casey review. This will include striking the right balance between safety and security, both technically and operationally.

Wembley have learnt these hard lessons and are in a better state of preparedness for the 2028 Euros than they were two years ago.

For access control, it is evident that a standardised, proactive approach to design and operation of stadium egress doors should be created and adopted across all stadia. This would supersede the current bespoke and reactive approach to access controlling and operating egress doors.

The successful application of a standardised solution will have a massive impact on stadium security designs and operations in the future.

About the author

Mithun Thekkumbadan is an Associate Security Consultant at Buro Happold, the global engineering design and advisory practice headquartered in the UK and operating across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Mithun is a member of the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists (RSES), and is a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Mithun joined Buro Happold in 2013 after gaining a Master’s degree in Electronic Systems with Communications from Warwick University. He has worked on more than 60 security projects globally, including security designs of large stadia both nationally and internationally.

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