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Disability charity ‘disappointed’ by UEFA chief’s comments on Euro final chaos

Sep 16, 2021 | 11:23:AM

A disability charity has criticised UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin for remarks which appeared to play down the disorder at the Euro 2020 final.

Ticketless supporters were able to gain entry to Wembley, with some of them crowding into wheelchair viewing areas and creating what Level Playing Field (LPF) has previously described as a “frightening experience” for disabled fans.

Ceferin told The Times last week that the chaos which surrounded the England v Italy match would not harm any bid from the UK and Ireland to stage the 2030 World Cup, and said “it’s a story only in England”.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the scenes at Wembley would not harm any bid from the UK and Ireland to stage the 2030 World Cup (John Walton/PA).

He said he had not seen any problems at the match personally and described it as a “nice final”. He also said Wembley was one of a small number of venues that could host a new ‘final four’ format for the semi-finals and final of the Champions League which UEFA is considering.

Tony Taylor, the chair of LPF, said in a statement to the PA news agency: “Events at the Euro 2020 final need to be recognised for what they were: dangerous chaos and disorder that put fans – and especially disabled fans – directly in harm’s way.

“Just because someone did not witness the terrible incidents that occurred at the Euro 2020 final should not mean that the circumstances are simply glossed over or treated as some casual fan misdemeanour.”

Taylor added: “We have heard from fans who were frightened and shaken due to these events and questioned their own safety at future tournaments and fixtures.

“We are clear in our view that there must be a full, detailed review with tangible meaningful actions to prevent a repeat of the appalling scenes we witnessed at Wembley in July. It is only through good fortune that we are not talking about serious injuries being the end result.

“The need for detailed and regular consultation with disabled fans has never been more essential.

“We are disappointed that a senior official from UEFA should make the observations that have been made as the view from the protected hospitality areas bears no comparison to the horrifying experiences of disabled fans caught in a melee of disorder and violence. Fans cannot and must not be ignored.”

One disabled supporter reported they were ‘hijacked’ by a ticketless individual impersonating a steward in order to gain entry to the stadium.

Ceferin told The Times: “What happened outside the stadium was a mistake and shouldn’t be repeated, but nobody would vote against the (World Cup) bid because of that.

“No one even mentions it, it’s a story only in England. Outside of England I’ve never heard anyone speaking about it. This could have happened anywhere and when we saw the finals at Wembley it was something else, it was huge. I didn’t see any of the problems myself at the final.

“What I noticed was that quite a big number of fans was suddenly up there, so I said to my general secretary, ‘What’s this?’ It was quite full I would say! But it was such a nice final and London is such a great hub. Everyone can fly in and the stadium is so nice.”

UEFA responded to the disorder by opening disciplinary proceedings against the Football Association.

England manager Gareth Southgate said earlier this month he was concerned a stadium ban could be imposed as a result of that investigation.

The FA has also commissioned an independent inquiry into the events on July 11, which is being led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock.

UEFA said it could not comment on the LPF statement, with the circumstances around the final the subject of an ongoing disciplinary process.