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Champions League final to see Wembley’s biggest ever security operation

Featured image credit: Daniel/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size

Wembley Stadium is set to roll out the biggest security operation in its history for Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final as the venue, and European football’s governing body, seek to avoid the incidents that have occurred at recent events.

German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund will take on Spanish LaLiga team Real Madrid in London, with more than 2,500 stewards expected to be in place and provisions rolled out through a £5m (€5.89m/$6.38m) operations overhaul at Wembley.

For Wembley, the staging of the 2024 Champions League final comes after the fallout, and subsequent work undertaken, following the shameful scenes during the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. In November, a trio of key priorities were identified to improve security at Wembley Stadium in the wake of the events surrounding the Euro 2020 final.

In the wake of the publication of Baroness Casey’s independent review back in December 2021 into the significant levels of public disorder before and during the event, Football Association (FA) chief executive, Mark Bullingham, apologised for the “terrible experience” many suffered within Wembley.

The independent review stated the “appalling scenes of disorder” which marred the Euro 2020 final came “perilously close to putting lives at risk” and November’s stocktake report from Baroness Casey provided an update on progress made following initial recommendations.

At the time, Baroness Casey looked ahead to the London ground’s hosting of the 2024 Champions League final, stating she would be seeking to ensure that “best practice governance” is implemented, and to support this she would chair a “Champions League final assurance group”.

The initial review was commissioned in December 2021 by the FA to help the organisation fully understand the events which took place on the day of the final. The FA announced in July 2021 that an independent review led by Baroness Casey had been commissioned following the crowd disorder in the lead-up to the game.

The FA had earlier said that it would carry out a full review and investigation after a number of ticketless fans illegally forced their way into the stadium for the match.

Baroness Casey’s independent review into events surrounding the Euro 2020 final concluded that around 2,000 people gained access to the game illegally. It noted that there 17 mass breaches of disabled access gates and emergency fire doors. Only 400 of those who gained entry were able to be ejected by security staff.

Wembley in July received planning permission to install a series of security upgrades designed to ensure the shocking scenes witnessed at the Euro 2020 final are not repeated. Wembley has been building up to the Champions League final by testing measures at games this year, with Saturday’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United implementing all of the operational upgrades.

For Saturday, fans will have their tickets checked twice before reaching the turnstiles, which will open four hours before kick-off. This timing is usually two hours before a major event, but has been doubled with fans incentivised to arrive early through the likes of food and drink offers when inside the stadium.

The improvements implemented include a strengthening of all Wembley’s doors, with a further lock system added, with this element of security having been highlighted as inadequate during the Euro 2020 final.

New gates and peri­meter fencing have also been installed, while a ‘Zone X’ control room will monitor movement in areas outside the stadium and the local area. Stewards will be fitted with extra body cameras and it is hoped Uefa’s digital ticketing system will deter touts. Each team was granted an allocation of 25,000 tickets for the ­86,600‑capacity stadium.

“It’s vital we deliver and do every­thing we can control in the best ­possible way,” said the Football Association’s tournaments, events and interim stadium director, Chris Bryant, according to The Guardian.

“We want this event to be as successful as possible for every reason, not least for the fans and the event in itself, but we know a lot of people will think about the (Euro 2020) final as well. We are in a really good place, we’ve been ­planning in detail for 18 months.”

UEFA has also faced heavy criticism for the staging of the last two Champions League finals, in Istanbul last year, and particularly the Paris event in 2022. An independent report, commissioned by UEFA in the days following the match at the Stade de France, concluded that it was “remarkable that no one lost their life”, with UEFA also stating that the report highlighted a “number of important lessons” about how the organisation of the final could have improved.

Asked about the FA’s relationship with UEFA in the staging of this year’s final, Bryant said: “We’ve worked with them a lot in the past in terms of the Euro finals and the Women’s Euros as well.

“Between ourselves and UEFA, we absolutely have embraced the learnings and lessons from Paris in the delivery of this event. That is clear. We embedded that into our planning and our thought process.”

He added: “A massive amount of work has gone into this, an event of national significance and a chance to show London is fantastic at delivering big events.”