This is the record of an exchange that took place on Linked in on 5th / 6th December 2021 (and subsequently) on LinkedIn.
In order to allow for a fuller discussion than is permitted by LinkedIn limitations, I have posted this here, and offered both Eric Stuart and anyone else who would wish to contribute the space to make their comments known.
I believe that it is discussions like these between informed, engaged and experienced practitioners that can only be positive and add value to the wider security and risk management sectors.
Executive Director, ISRM
Many of you will have seen news on the recently released Casey Report into the failures that led to the Wembley Stadium invasion in July of this year for the Euro 2020 Final.
As is so often the case, the overwhelming message of the report is 'This should not have happened'.
Although the chief cause of the problems was, of course, the behaviour of the thousands of people who caused the trouble, and who had been building up to that for hours before the trouble actually kicked off, there were also multiple organisational failures in both the long-term planning and immediate response to those problems.
The responsible authorities had not understood the potential risks in the planning leading up to the match, had not been sensitive to clear signs that trouble was brewing long before it actually escalated into the stadium invasion, and had failed to create a multi-agency information exchange networks that would have allowed them to be able to communicate speedily and effectively once it became clear that trouble was happening.
Deltar Training has been running the Level 5 Award in Strategic Planning and Management of Major Events since 2019, and these are exactly the sorts of issues that we cover in the programme. The case study of the US Capitol invasion of 6th January 2021 would give an almost exact template of what could go wrong, and what are the planning and management failures that allowed that to escalate to a point where, in the US case, 5 people lost their lives (and 138 police officers were injured), and in the Wembley case, it was only by luck and good fortune that no lives were lost.
Response from Eric Stuart QPM
Director/Owner at GENTIAN EVENTS LIMITED
Chair: United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA)
Contributor to Casey Report: Addendum 2 - Wembley Stadium Near Misses Report
I would disagree slightly that there was no structure in place to communicate the issues. It was in place and the concerns were being relayed rapidly between agencies on the day. The trouble was a failure to even imaging the behaviours of those fans and form so early in the day. The quantity of drugs and alcohol meant the behaviour persisted for hours and even thought as deteriorating, activating resources scheduled to arrive in the mid to late afternoon was not possible. The important part of this report is that it was unprecedented and in circumstances that formed a 'perfect storm' the like of which will almost certainly never happen again. It is very hard to plan for the Black Swan event that was Wembley and although there were warnings, they never pointed unequivocally to the events that would unfold that day. Could the authorities have done better? yes. But when you are planning and resourcing for an event, you do so with 'reasonably foreseeable' in mind and whilst those events were easy to predict with hindsight, it was far less obvious in advance of the day.
Response from David Rubens
I have now read the main text of the Casey Report in full, as well as your Addendum on ‘Near Misses’. think that it supports my comments that whilst the cause of the problems were clearly the crowds and their behaviour, and that once that behaviour reached a level where public safety was significantly compromised all responding parties – MPS, Brent Council officials, stewards and security personnel – all acted with courage and professionalism, there were significant strategic issues that meant that the opportunity to identify and mitigate those issues, and to respond more effectively once they had started to occur, were missed.
My first point is that this was definitely not a Black Swan event. A Black Swan event is something that is paradigm -changing, not just a matter of lack of foresight and preparation.
‘Many of the events that unfolded were foreseeable, and, while there were many mitigating factors, there was a collective failure to plan for the worst case scenario’ (Page 12).
‘By the time of the final, a pattern of new behaviours around England games had emerged at Wembley including unusual levels of intoxication, hesitant stewarding within the stadium, and ticketless crowds drinking, throwing glass, and climbing on street furniture outside the stadium. It is striking that these behaviours characterised much of the disorder on Euro Sunday, albeit on a vastly greater scale and from earlier in the day. The warning signs were there. Unfortunately, though raised by Downs and by a safety official, these were not heeded’ (Page 17).
‘Although action was stepped up for the final there was an absence of risk assessment for the occasion that Euro Sunday represented. This amounted to a collective failure by partners involved’. (Page 10).
The Wembley invasion, and the behaviour and activities that preceded it, where not ‘sudden’ events. By 10.00am, Brent Council was aware of the nature of the crowds (alcohol, drugs, general anti-social behaviour), and brought forward deployment of enforcement officers to 11.00am (Page 27).
By 12.00 ‘It was clear that Olympic Way had become an area of unregulated, unchallenged disorder’ Page 28)
The possibility of such behaviour has been discussed at the Cabinet Office on 30/06, where it wa identified that levels of intoxication and general anti-social behaviour was ‘unprecedented’ and the general atmosphere was ‘toxic’ (Page 74).
The SGSA (Sports Ground Safety Authority) recommended a total alcohol ban if England reached the semi-finals, to prevent fans injuring themselves seriously. They told the meeting: ‘I have never seen that behaviour at Wembley before. And, you know, there is no way you can deal with that behaviour’ (Page 76).
Eric, you mention the ‘perfect storm’ as the Casey Report does on numerous occasion. But one of the critical issues of that was the impact of Covid-19. That can hardly be considered an ‘unknown unknown’.
The issue was not that these threats were unknown, but that they were unrecognised. ‘But no one spotted all the warning signs and no one involved in the planning thought of what might happen, what the worst case scenario was and what indeed did happen on the Sunday’ (Page 93).
In the Executive Summary of your (excellent) addendum on ‘Near Misses’, you mention ‘a failure of imagination’. That is of course the phrase used by the Congressional Report into 9/11. A failure of imagination is not an excuse for lack of foresight, but the identification of a lack of planning and foresight that could lead to significant harm. As you say ‘In fact, it is generally poor planning or weak arrangements that have led to many incidents occurring’.
We should all be grateful that the outcomes of what happened at Wembley were not worse. Near misses always have the possibility to turn into tragic events – under different circumstances, Manchester Arena bombing, Grenfell Tower tragedy or the Kings Cross Station fire could all have been near misses.
These comments are not made with the intention of pointing a finger, but in recognition of the responsibility that comes with the role of strategic planning. It is exactly for that reason that whilst we cannot influence the behaviours of those thousands of people at Wembley that day, we can use our knowledge, experience, understanding and insight to ensure that from our side at least, we are as ready as we can possibly be to manage those events as safely and securely as possible, aware at all time of the consequences of getting it wrong.