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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

UEFA keen for Wembley Champions League final to run smoothly

Nobody wants the chaos of recent finals in Paris and Istanbul to be repeated at the 2024 Champions League final which will be held in London.

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PAUL CHILDSAction Images via Reuters

The organization of the last two Champions League finals left a lot to be desired - to put it mildly. The 2022 final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was switched to Stade de France, was total chaos, utter mayhem - made worse by UEFA’s bizarre attempts to shift the blame onto the fans for the pandemonium, which lead to kick-off being delayed. After an independent investigation, UEFA ended up having to apologize, especially to English fans, and take serious action to ensure future events don’t suffer the same fate. An internal report from the body itself confirmed that “a catastrophe with mass deaths” could have occurred.

This year’s final in Istanbul was not much better and drew criticism from inside UEFA, with president Aleksander Ceferin admitting: “We are well aware that not everything was perfect in Istanbul”. Transport and traffic problems forced thousands of fans to walk for miles to get to and from the stadium as shuttle buses did not circulate through the crowds.

The 2024 Champions League final will be held at Wembley and there is immense pressure on the English FA and UEFA to make it a success, following the serious issues of the last two finals. For precisely that reason, English FA Chair Debbie Hewitt has stated that the emergency plans for the Champions League final at Wembley will be “tested to destruction” to prevent future security threats - and avoid the problems of the past.

Hewitt carries other responsibilities on her shoulders as she is aware that UEFA will be keeping a close watch on England, who aim to jointly host Euro 2028. A joint proposal from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be up against Turkey’s candidacy when the host nations are determined by UEFA’s executive committee on 10 October.

UK Euro 2028 bid: proposed host stadiums

  • Wembley, London
  • Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
  • City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
  • Everton Stadium, Liverpool
  • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • St James' Park, Newcastle
  • Hampden Park, Glasgow
  • Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
  • Dublin Stadium, Dublin 
  • Casement Park, Belfast

She explained: “It is very important that we learn the lessons of Paris and Istanbul. We are making a bid for Euro 2028. We are convincing people why we must win. One of the things that I am absolutely sure the UEFA Executive Committee will ask us is ‘how can you make sure that nobody jumps the turnstiles?’ Being well rehearsed and not just having the answers, but having them working on what is the answer. That’s an important part of the bid. We have to convince every one of those Exco members we have not only thought about it but that we have planned for it - that we know what we would do in what order and who is accountable, and that is why they should vote for us”.

“Healthy paranoia” between UEFA and the FA

Hewitt concluded that it is impossible to say outright that nothing will happen: “You can never be confident with something like that can you? It would be very over-confident for me to say that. Because anything can happen. You just have to be confident you have thought through what you would do if something did happen. Rather than say ‘I am confident that will never happen’, the question is ‘what if it did? What would you do?’ That kind of testing is crucial. We are paranoid about it and we try to test to destruction. I am sure we will make some mistakes that have yet to be made in other stadiums, but it won’t be because we didn’t try and test. That is important to us. It is no good the police doing their bit in one room and the stewards doing their bit in another and us doing our bit in that room and UEFA doing theirs in that room. It is getting everyone in the same room and testing each other’s plans to destruction”.