A first hand account of attending the Finals at Wembley
Even though it may have been a tough loss, one of our own was lucky enough to be one of the 60,000(ish) fans in attendance at the Euro 2020 Championship Finals on July 11. Since we've been deprived of the action for so long, we were eager for a firsthand account of the return to live in London. Without further ado, this is Shuyu👇.
“When I actually arrived at Wembley stadium I was like 'wow this is happening!'”
As the country prepares to welcome back more events this summer, we asked Shuyu how it felt to be back at a nearly full capacity event. We also discussed the logistics of the event to get a feel for how operations were carried out at the match. After receiving the tickets as a wedding gift, she was one of the first eve team members to see something live in a year and a half. Once we got over the initial jealousy, we had to know everything! ‘How did it feel?’ ‘What was the atmosphere like?’ Shuyu was happy to indulge us.
Leading up to the big event, she explained that she was a little nervous at first, not only because it was one of the first major events to return to the UK in a Covid world, but because it was her first major sporting event ever. Wembley Stadium has a capacity of 90,000 and the attendance for different stages of the tournament varied. For the finals, there were more than 60,000 fans permitted. Given the circumstances, we'd say a bit of nervousness was justified.
Even though the attendance was capped at around 75%, there were (what seemed like) thousands more fans watching the match outside, making the crowd seem even larger. With the extra crowd lingering outside the stadium, it caused a bit of congestion, making it quite an ordeal to get to the entrance - and that’s just the beginning.
“I got there by tube, even inside the carriage people were quite excited already. Once I got out of the station, I could see there was a queue of 1-2km [0.6-1.2 miles] in front me with a massive crowd of people. It took us 30-45 minutes to get to the main entrance and staff were supposed to check both the NHS covid QR code and event ticket, but only did the latter. Once I passed the main entrance, we had a second gate control located in each section of the stadium. This one took us approximately another 30-45 minutes and when we finally got to our seats we were already late.”
As part of the Government’s Events Research Programme, the Euro Final required fans to show either proof of a negative lateral flow test (LFT), full vaccination or natural immunity along with the mobile ticket and ID to gain entry into the stadium. There were also entry time slots for all ticket holders to ease the flow of fans into the stadium.
The energy of the fans in the tube was nothing compared to the atmosphere inside the stadium; people were euphoric. Considering it was likely the first live event for many in a long time, that's not surprising.
“Fans were super excited. Singing, jumping, laughing...social distancing was non-existent.”
Since the stadium was around 75% full, social distancing was encouraged but difficult to enforce. Fans were seated right next to each other and lines for concessions, merchandise and bathrooms were all pretty normal.
When asked about navigating the crowds to get food and drinks or take a quick bathroom break, Shuyu said, “unfortunately I didn’t see any rules being applied during these occasions”. People seemed to be quite comfortable being back in a busy environment, but that could be attributed to the vaccination or negative test requirement. If anyone knows how to get rowdy and show great energy during a soccer match, it's the English. The Euro 2020 finals were no exception; nothing was holding them back throughout this tournament.
A couple of yellow cards, two goals, a penalty shootout and 90 minutes later...
“There were a lot of MET police officers and stewards on site so the exit was quite smooth,” Shuyu explained. Italy's victory may have contributed to the smooth egress of fans after the game. It was a tough loss for the English team, after having not reached the finals in a major soccer tournament in 55 years and marking their first European Championship final ever. They finally got to play in front of a live crowd and had home field advantage, which would have made a victory even sweeter. Even though it was not the result hoped for by many in the crowd, it was a momentous game, being one of the largest to return in England in about 18 months.
Now that the country has reopened, we wanted to know how Shuyu’s decision changed, if at all, to get back to more events after having experienced the Euro 2020 Finals.
“I'm personally skeptical about going back to super large events; they're just so difficult to control. But, small-medium sized events, they're more promising.”
We'll have to wait and see what the final results of the Events Research Programme show, but we're all hoping for the best. Now that England and other parts of the world are preparing for live events once again, event organizers have their work cut out for them ensuring the safety of fans. Validating vaccination or negative status for entry only work when teams are committed to following the guidelines set forth and attendees take these requirements seriously.
For all of us not at the game, we can only imagine how thrilling it was to be there amongst the roaring crowd. Hopefully, it’s not too long before the rest of us can get back to cheering on our favorite team or rocking out with our favorite band in person once again.