• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Amid heavy security, fans invade Champions League final at Wembley

Pitch invader-Champions League final

Despite the presence of over 2,500 metropolitan police, the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Saturday night was disrupted by three pitch invaders, causing a delay in the game.

Wembley officials faced embarrassment as the three pitch invaders interrupted the match, despite the extensive security operation intended to prevent such incidents.

The security effort followed an 18-month planning period to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that marred the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. A significant police presence was maintained at Wembley and throughout London.

The Metropolitan Police reported 53 arrests during the final, five of which were directly linked to the pitch invasion, with most of the others related to attempts to breach security.

The pitch invasion raised significant questions about the effectiveness of the security measures. The game was halted for 30 seconds after kickoff when three men ran into the field. One invader attempted to take a selfie with Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior and Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham before being removed.

Another invader, who eluded security for nearly a minute, was apprehended with the help of Dortmund midfielder Marcel Sabitzer. A fourth invader was stopped before reaching the pitch.

The invaders wore T-shirts displaying the name of Belarusian streamer Mellstroy, who allegedly offered £300,000 to anyone who ran onto the field during the final with his name on their shirt. T

The incident caused a two-minute delay in the match, prompting UK broadcaster TNT Sports to cut away during its live coverage. At halftime, an announcement reminded fans that entering the field of play is an arrestable offence.

Before the match, the FA’s tournaments, events, and interim stadium director, Chris Bryant, emphasized the importance of delivering a safe event.

“It is vital we deliver and do everything we can control in the best possible way… We are in a really good place, we have been planning in detail for 18 months,” he said.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson commented on footage circulating online showing groups of ticketless fans attempting to force entry, stating that it “does not necessarily represent successful attempts to enter the stadium.

There are typically multiple further levels of security beyond an initial entrance. We are confident that the overwhelming majority of attempts to unlawfully gain access to Wembley this evening were unsuccessful thanks to the efforts of officers, stewards, and other stadium staff.”

A Wembley spokesperson added, “We will support the relevant authorities to ensure appropriate action is taken.”