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The Harrowing True Story Behind Netflix’s The Final: Attack on Wembley Documentary

3 minute read

By 10 am on the morning of July 11, 2021, a horde of soccer fans was already gathering outside of London's Wembley Stadium in anticipation of the Euro 2020 Final matchup between England and Italy set to kick off later that night. What transpired over the next 10-plus hours would make the day memorable, and not just for England's loss in a heartbreaking penalty shootout.

In The Final: Attack on Wembley, now streaming on Netflix, directors Rob Miller and Kwabena Oppong chronicle how the fan frenzy over England's first major final since 1966 combined with pent-up COVID-19 lockdown frustration resulted in thousands of ticketless supporters storming Wembley in an attempt to gain entry to the match. As the day progressed, celebration turned to chaos which turned to violence, with attendees under the influence of drugs and alcohol acting increasingly unruly and erratic.

"Shocking and unprecedented levels of criminal and anti-social behavior were evident from very early in the day, which caught all agencies off guard and meant the police deployment arrived too late," stated a report on the incident published later that year.

What happened at Wembley?

The Final: Attack on Wembley
The Final: Attack on WembleyNetflix

The documentary features first-hand testimony from a variety of people who were at Wembley that day, including a fan who successfully forced his way into the stadium, security staff, and innocent attendees caught in the fray. An Italy supporter who brought his young daughter to the game recounts how they were verbally abused, had bottles and cans thrown at them, and feared physical violence as they tried to navigate the raucous crowd that had assembled on Wembley's grounds.

Those attempting to sneak into the stadium trailed ticket-holders through barriers, hurdled over turnstiles, and barreled through security guards and police. All in all, around 2,000 people forced their way into Wembley—400 of whom were ejected by staff—while 19 police officers were injured, and 86 people were arrested throughout London for disorder related to the game. While no one was seriously hurt, the December 2021 report stated the day "saw a series of 'near misses' which could have led to significant injuries or even death."

The documentary emphasizes the role of the COVID-19 lockdowns on the psyche of young fans. "I'm not ashamed of what I've done," says one England supporter who successfully broke into the stadium. "In 2020, we was all locked away in our homes, couldn't go anywhere, could only go outside for a little bit of exercise. And the whole time when we're doing that, the leaders of our country are out here, partying. How can I feel like I've done something wrong? To witness England winning their first trophy since 1966, I wasn't missing that for nobody."

The film also delves into the aftermath of the England's loss, exposing the racist abuse that was directed at England's three players of color, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who missed their penalty shots. "I can take critique of my performance all day long," Rashford said in a statement shared on social media the day after the match. "But I will never apologize for who I am and where I came from."

Attack on Wembley ends with a preview of the forthcoming Euro 2024 tournament, in which England is once again among the favorites to win. This year's final will take place in Berlin.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com