Pitch invaders halt UCL final despite security effort

The Champions League final was halted inside the first minute because of pitch invaders despite Wembley Stadium beefing up its security for Saturday’s game.

The final between Madrid and Borussia Dortmund was stopped almost immediately after kickoff, with one interloper taking a selfie with Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior.

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Vinicius went on to score Madrid’s second goal in the second half to seal a 15th Champions League title in a 2-0 win over Dortmund.

Two invaders were quickly removed by Wembley security staff, but then another person ran onto the field, to the visible annoyance of some players. It took four security staff to apprehend the last invader.

A spokesperson for Wembley released a statement on the incident during the game.

“It is illegal to enter the field of play at Wembley Stadium, and we strongly condemn the actions of those who interrupted the UEFA Champions League Final shortly after kick-off,” it read.

“All of the individuals have now been arrested. We will support the relevant authorities to ensure appropriate action is taken.”

Wembley had significantly increased its security operation for the final on Saturday, with organisers intent on avoiding a repeat of the lawlessness that tarnished the Euro 2020 showpiece.

Three years ago, 2,000 ticketless England fans violently stormed past stewards to get inside to watch their men’s national team play Italy in the European Championship final.

The past two Champions League finals have also been marred by problems. UEFA was primarily blamed for security failures in 2022 in Paris when Liverpool and Madrid fans were held in crushed queues. Last year, fans complained of transportation problems accessing the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, where Manchester City beat Inter Milan.

Saturday’s final featured the largest deployment of stewards — 2,500 — in Wembley history and follows £5 million ($6.3m) of security upgrades including new gates and perimeter fencing, improved locks on doors, and an internal control room to better monitor fan behavior. Stewards also were wearing body cams.

The Metropolitan Police had 2,000 officers — including 400 from police forces outside the city — on duty across London. Besides the final, police were on hand at fan events downtown as well as for unrelated protests.

“We want fans visiting London for this fantastic event to have a safe and enjoyable experience,” police commander Louise Puddefoot said. “There will be a visible police and stewarding presence not just around Wembley but at fan zones and other events.”

Dortmund fans have a dedicated zone at Hyde Park, Madrid fans at Victoria Embankment. Each team was allotted 25,000 tickets.

Fans were allowed to enter the stadium four hours before kick-off — rather than the usual two hours.

“We’ve learned lessons, and additional measures have been implemented,” Chris Bryant, the director of tournaments and events for the English Football Association, said of the Euro 2020 chaos.

An investigation into the disorder found that an estimated 6,000 ticketless and alcohol-fueled fans “recklessly endangered lives” outside the stadium. A portion of them forced their way through disabled access entrances by punching and kicking stewards before England’s loss to Italy.

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