The Uefa Euro 2020 final could have been abandoned had police not stepped in as ticketless fans stormed Wembley, a senior officer has claimed.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, who led the force’s response to the tournament, rejected accusations that the policing operation had failed after England supporters forced their way into the stadium.
She said: “I do not accept that the policing operation failed and I stand by the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met’s public order commanders.
“Without their immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned.”
The Football Association is carrying out a review of what happened, with senior Met officers pushing back at accusations that they failed to maintain a ring of steel around the national stadium.
Speaking at an investiture at St James’ Palace as she was made a Dame Commander, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick insisted she was proud of her officers.
She said: “There will be a full debrief of course, there’s an awful lot of inaccurate speculation about what happened at the moment.
“I’m very proud of my officers and the command team.”
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh also hit back, saying that officers had warned Wembley security about what could happen.
Ms Connors, in a statement send out to the media on Wednesday, said: “Ahead of the final, police commanders deployed one of the most significant and comprehensive policing plans the Met has ever committed to a football match of this scale.
In Wembley, soon into the day it became clear that a high number of fans were arriving without tickets.
“Police commanders recognised this could result in ticketless fans attempting to get into the stadium, they updated security officials at Wembley of this risk.
“To support the stewarding efforts, further highly trained public order officers were deployed to Wembley Stadium as a precaution.
“Soon after gates opened, the stewarding and outer security perimeter became overwhelmed and fans began pushing through security checks.
“I want to praise the quick response by police commanders and those brave officers who confronted these subsequent scenes of disorder and violence.
“I am in no doubt that their swift action prevented any further escalation.”
The force said that 51 people were arrested over disorder linked to the final, and that 19 officers were injured, including one who suffered a fractured hand and another who had a tooth knocked out.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has insisted the force has his full support despite the chaotic scenes in Wembley and across the capital during Sunday night’s final against Italy.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said on Monday that a full review will take place into what had happened and he accused “drunken yobs” of trying to force their way into the stadium without tickets.
Mr Khan told the PA news agency: “It was not right what happened on Sunday, not just at Wembley, but across our city, with the hooligans from outside London breaking the law in Leicester Square, Liverpool Street, Trafalgar Square, Wembley and so forth.
“The FA are reviewing their arrangements at Wembley, the Met Police Service will take part in that review.”
He added the force was examining CCTV and body-worn videos and highlighted the fact that officers had been injured: “What’s also really important, that I say loudly and clearly: the police have my full confidence and full support.”
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme that Wembley security told officers about the breach too late.
“Wembley is a private premises.
“We do not police private premises. We used to police within Premiership games at Wembley etc, and they had to start paying for it.
“They didn’t want to pay the money that was required, so they brought in private security companies.
“When you take the game that took place on Sunday, by the time we had it brought to our attention that several thousand people were trying to force their way in it was too late for us, because we were the wrong side of them and unable to repel them from doing so.
“We had flagged this up previously because there were far too many people within the area of Wembley for an 8pm kick off.
“There were tens of thousands floating about, it was unprecedented numbers.
“By the time it was brought to our attention then it was too late.”