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'Wembley spokesman was like Comical Ali - a liar' | The aftermath of near-disaster

Journalist Gabriele Marcotti believes accountability for near-disaster at Wembley on Sunday is ke...


'Wembley spokesman was like Comical Ali - a liar' | The aftermath of near-disaster

Journalist Gabriele Marcotti believes accountability for near-disaster at Wembley on Sunday is key for faith in football and wider authorities to remain.

The world at large was struck by videos of fans - 'thousands and thousands', by Marcotti's reckoning - getting into the stadium without tickets.

From his view inside the venue, Marcotti gave the Football Show his take.

'Thousands of ticketless fans got into Wembley'

"Two things struck me. There were very obviously far more than the official attendance there. The reason is obvious: thousands and thousands of ticketless fans got in. Once they got in, they sat in seats assigned to other people.

"Wembley had timed entry - friends of mine turned up to their seats at the appointed time and four dudes were sat there who refused to move. What do you do in that situation? Go and complain to a steward on minimum wage in a little jacket, likely to be an 18 years old girl?

"What the Wembley stewards did was go and seat them in empty seats. At that point, social distancing goes out the window - and you have social distancing for a reason, England has the highest infection rate in the world right now."

'The Wembley spokesman was like Chemical Ali'

Marcotti hopes action will be taken at all levels, given the troubling historical connotations in football's relationship with fatal stadium disasters.

"I really hope there is an inquiry and that people are held to account. On a personal level, I don't like that a Wembley spokesman talks to my ESPN colleagues and issues a statement saying 'There was an incident with fans trying to get in, but there was no security breach and there are no ticketless fans in the stadium.'

"I'm sorry man, you're like the Iraqi Minister of Information - you, sir, are a liar. Whether you are willingly lying, or you're doing that because that was the bunk information given to you by your bosses who are too chickenshit to come out and have the balls to say 'we want to find out what was going on, we want to ascertain the facts first,' that is simply unacceptable.

"I want names. I want people to come out. This country has a history of terrible things happening at stadiums, and I know Wembley isn't Hillsborough - but who knows what might have happened?"

'How about you man up and own it?'

Marcotti believes that the Metropolitan Police need to take their share of the blame, given how heavy-handed they have been in less confrontational instances.

"I can't deal with the police continually saying how clever they are, and that they have this wonderful football intelligence, or whatever. Because on the day, you weren't there. A lot of bad things happened, a lot of worse things could have happened, and you need to do a full inquiry as well.

"You're very good at going to people at the Sarah Everard vigil, taking candles off middle-aged women and carting them away - how about you man up and go and deal with it?

"Don't tell me that there the minimum security requirement was 300 and there 450 there. Maybe you're not that smart, maybe all your clever people in crowd control got that one wrong. How about you come out and own it?"

'Things can fall apart'

Marcotti believes that the need for an inquiry is to preserve what trust remains in Britain's public institutions.

"This is important because we've all come through a 16-month nightmare which isn't over yet and we've all had to put our trust in governments and in authority and trust that people have made the right decisions. Some are right, some are wrong and were mostly made in good faith.

"But there has to be accountability to go with it. When there is no accountability, when there are cover-ups, that is when you lose faith in authority. That is when things break apart, and that is why I expect that there will be a serious inquiry into this.

"This is not a political thing. This is not a Tory-Labour thing; Boris Johnson wasn't in charge of the logistics. But there has to be accountability."

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