Wembley Stadium beefs up security for Champions League final

AP , Saturday 1 Jun 2024

Wembley Stadium has significantly beefed up its security operation for the Champions League final on Saturday, intent on avoiding a repeat of the lawlessness that tarnished the Euro 2020 showpiece.

Wembley
Groundstaff prepare the pitch ahead of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Wembley stadium in London on June 1, 2024. AFP

Real Madrid faces Borussia Dortmund at England’s national stadium, where three years ago 2,000 ticketless English fans violently stormed past stewards to get inside to watch their men’s national team play Italy in the European Championship final.

The past two Champions League finals have also been marred by problems. UEFA was primarily blamed for security failures in 2022 in Paris when Liverpool and Madrid fans were held in crushed queues. Last year, fans complained of transportation problems accessing the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, where Manchester City beat Inter Milan.

Saturday’s final will feature the largest deployment of stewards — 2,500 — in Wembley Stadium history and follows 5 million pounds ($6.3 million) of security upgrades including new gates and perimeter fencing, improved locks on doors, and an internal control room to better monitor fan behavior. Stewards will be wearing body cams.

The Metropolitan Police will have 2,000 officers — including 400 from police forces outside the city — on duty across London. Besides the final, police will be on hand at fan events downtown as well as for unrelated protests.

“We want fans visiting London for this fantastic event to have a safe and enjoyable experience,” police commander Louise Puddefoot said. “There will be a visible police and stewarding presence not just around Wembley but at fan zones and other events.”

Dortmund fans have a dedicated zone at Hyde Park; Madrid fans at Victoria Embankment. Each team was allotted 25,000 tickets.

Fans will be allowed to enter the stadium four hours before kickoff — rather than the usual two hours.

“We’ve learned lessons and additional measures have been implemented,” Chris Bryant, the director of tournaments and events for the English Football Association, said of the Euro 2020 chaos.

An investigation into the disorder found that an estimated 6,000 ticketless and alcohol-fueled fans “recklessly endangered lives” outside the stadium. A portion of them forced their way through disabled access entrances by punching and kicking stewards before England lost to Italy.

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