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‘Horrific’ Wembley scenes will not derail UK and Ireland World Cup bid, MPs told

Italy v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Final – Wembley Stadium
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

The Euro 2020 final chaos at Wembley will not derail work towards a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup, MPs have been told.

The Football Association has been sanctioned over the disorder surrounding the match between England and Italy on July 11, with England forced to play their next home UEFA competition match behind closed doors. A further one-game ban has been suspended for two years.

It comes at a time when a feasibility study is ongoing over whether to launch a five-nation bid for the centenary World Cup.

UK Sport chief operating officer Simon Morton, whose organisation is involved in the study, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee he had attended the match and that some of the scenes he witnessed were “horrific”.

However, he believed the UK’s reputation for successfully staging major events remained intact.

“We have to get the balance right here,” he said.

“It was unacceptable, but I think most countries around the world would recognise it is not reflective of what normally happens.

“In respect of the bid, I think the only thing I can say there is the UEFA president (Aleksander Ceferin), who is a key person in respect of the process, has been on the record saying it will have no bearing whatsoever on our bid.

“There are lessons to be learned, the FA has commissioned a review from Baroness Casey. It’s very serious. But I do not think the bid is up in smoke.”

The Government has contributed £2.8million of taxpayers’ money to support the feasibility study.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup (Yui Mok/PA)

On Tuesday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said any UK and Ireland bid for 2030 “would be a very strong contender” despite the scenes at Wembley in the summer.

The FA and the Metropolitan Police have been asked to apologise to the disabled supporters who were directly impacted by the chaos at Wembley.

Ticketless individuals breached security cordons and in some cases made their way into areas of the stadium reserved for disabled fans.

Disability access charity Level Playing Field said in a statement issued on Tuesday: “The so-called ‘fans’ involved should be held accountable and apologies should be forthcoming from both the FA and the Metropolitan Police to disabled supporters who were directly impacted.

“Sanction alone is not enough. It is only by good fortune that we are not discussing a more tragic turn of events and outcome on the day.

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“Looking ahead, the FA – and football as a whole – needs to learn from what happened and adopt suitable measures to ensure there is no repetition.”

Morton was keen to accentuate the positives of the bid, and even said the “collaborative” approach between the nations had led to them exploring the possibility of bidding for other “mega events”, though he declined to say which ones.

He was asked whether it was yet known whether all the countries involved in the bid would be granted automatic qualification.

Morton said although there was “general consensus” among the potential bidding nations around how qualification would be handled in the event that FIFA refused automatic places for all five, he said it was hypothetical until the qualification regulations had been fixed.

The bidding regulations for 2030 are set to be confirmed by the middle of next year, but the rules on qualification will be set separately. It is understood that for the 2026 finals in the United States, Canada and Mexico – the first to feature 48 teams – the three co-hosts will be granted automatic qualification slots.

Morton warned about the danger of “oversaturation” in sport when asked about FIFA’s proposals for biennial World Cups.

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“One of the reasons why sport is so popular is because of its scarcity,” he said.

“I think when we host events, you want to know that it’s special, because you’re attending the World Championships.

“If there were 10 World Championships (in that sport) in a year, would it mean so much to the public? I don’t think that it would.”

The FIFA Council could set a date on Wednesday for an extraordinary gathering of its member associations in December to vote on the proposals.

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