Disabled fan targeted at Euro final says breach has ‘set back’ World Cup bid

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Authorities in England have “a lot of work to do” to prove they can guarantee security at a World Cup, a disabled football fan targeted in the disorder of the Euro 2020 final at Wembley has said.

The match in July saw around 2,000 people force their way into the London stadium without tickets, to see the home nation in its first final in 55 years.

An independent review into the major security breach concluded that there were a series of crowd “near misses” which “could have led to significant injuries or even death”.

Tim Hiley (left) and Joe McIndoe (right) at the Euros final at Wembley (Tim Hiley/PA)
Tim Hiley, left, and Joe McIndoe, right, at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley (Tim Hiley/PA)

Joe McIndoe, who had his wheelchair grabbed by a fan wearing a high-vis jacket to impersonate a steward in a bid to get into the ground, said he feared the trouble had “set us back” in terms of a World Cup bid.

The 29-year-old freelance writer from Southampton branded police and the Football Association (FA) “naive” for not seeing some of the problems coming, and said he would be disappointed if the scenes cost England a chance at future hosting rights.

He told the PA news agency: “I do feel a bit disappointed that their naivety might give Fifa or Uefa a valid excuse not to give us a World Cup or a Euros and that would be really disappointing, because I’d love to see it in my lifetime.

“And I think to be fair, it’s quite naive for them not to think that if a place was going to be targeted, it was going to be the disabled entrance.”

While Mr McIndoe still hopes England might host the World Cup again one day, he added: “I think it’s set us back a little bit possibly, or made it more uncertain.

“If they can sort the security out, then we’ll be able to host it no problem. But yeah, they’ve probably got a lot of work to do.”

Of his experience on the day, he said those who had stormed the stadium were a “mob” rather than genuine fans, and the man who took control of his wheelchair had left him feeling “used”.

He said: “I don’t like being used that way, I don’t like being used as a tool to basically ram your way in. Plus I feel like it was using me to potentially screw over other people, which I really don’t like.”

The 29-year-old described how the man in the high-vis jacket was “wanting to basically hijack us in order to get into the game”, calling it a “really weird moment”.

The aspiring actor, also from Southampton, told PA: “England is probably one of few countries in world football who could host a World Cup tomorrow, because we’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got the infrastructure.

“I don’t believe that anymore because we don’t have the security.

“For this joint bid in 2030 that they’re planning, I think Fifa would be looking at this and looking at some of the other potential bidders like Portugal and Spain and be like ‘they’ve got bigger stadiums but they can also handle big crowds so we’ll give it to them’.”

As for attending a World Cup final at Wembley, he said: “If England were in the World Cup final in 2030, I would have to go. But I would feel a lot more cautious and a lot more wary because I think with the World Cup having an even higher level of passion surrounding it, I think that could actually have the potential of being even worse than the Euros final.”

He said the Euro 2020 final had “exposed some serious flaws” in security and planning.

Among its recommendations for the FA and Wembley ahead of future matches, Baroness Casey’s review stated that “particular attention should be made to ensuring those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others”.

In November, ahead of the report’s release, sports minister Nigel Huddleston insisted the disorder at Wembley had not “put the kibosh” on a 2030 World Cup bid.

The Government is supporting a feasibility study to assess the merits of a UK and Ireland bid to stage the centenary finals, with Fifa set to confirm the bidding regulations by the middle of 2022.

In response to the Casey report, the Metropolitan Police said it regretted being unable to do more to prevent “unacceptable scenes of disorder”, and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said he remained “confident” of Wembley’s ability to host major matches in future.

In the immediate aftermath of the review, he said: “We’ve got to learn a lesson from this and make sure we bring about those changes in terms of the sea change in fan behaviour.”

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