Statement from Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of Brent Council

12 July 2021

Over the past month, Brent has had the honour and privilege of hosting eight incredible football matches at Wembley Stadium. Delayed due to the pandemic, the EURO 2020 football tournament was the first major sporting event to take place as COVID restrictions started to loosen.

The eyes of the world have been on a revitalised Wembley with many national and international visitors commenting on the remarkable change that the area has undergone. The Wembley Park of today is unrecognisable to the Wembley of 1996 when the EUROS last visited these shores.

The young and diverse England team has inspired a new generation of fans to believe in our national team again on the pitch. Guided by the ever calm and analytical Gareth Southgate, England has been transformed into a proper team, playing for each other and inspiring the nation along the way. Our very own 'Boy from Brent' Raheem Sterling, from Stonebridge, scored his first international goal just 500 yards away from the council home he grew up in. For a moment, it looked like football might truly be coming home.

This young team of Lions represent the best of us - diverse and inclusive. No individuals - just a hardworking team doing their best.

They have a togetherness that, for a while, united a nation.  In Britain's most diverse borough, they also led the fight against hate and racism, taking the knee before every match. I commend them all, not just for their incredible efforts on the pitch but also for their social campaigning off it. The racist abuse directed at three very young and brave black players is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

I would also like to put on record how proud I am of the vital role all partners played in ensuring that - overall - the tournament was a success. Our staff have worked above and beyond to ensure the success of the EUROS. Thank you to them all.

After 14 months of working on a global pandemic in one of the worst-hit boroughs, putting on a major sporting event such as this was an incredible achievement.  However, despite the previous fantastic seven matches, some of the scenes we witnessed last night were completely unacceptable.

 A minority of drunk and mindless hooligans, who were set on wanton destruction, have behaved in the worst way possible. When we should have been celebrating being in a final, these violent thugs represent the worst of the country. They are not welcome in Brent, and they have brought shame to the country.

It is quite clear that many, many people descended on Wembley without tickets and then some of them caused serious problems in the area. The excessive consumption of alcohol yesterday played a big part in fuelling the behaviour that went on.

We will be working with our partners at the FA, with the Police and other partners within the Safety Advisory Group to determine what contributed to the appalling scenes we witnessed yesterday and what can be done by any and all of us to improve the management of future major events in Wembley.

 

On a final note, we should thank Gareth Southgate and his England team for giving us some of the most memorable and joyful sporting moments in recent times.  It was a real rollercoaster of emotions right up until the final ball was kicked.

 

Despite losing, the team should be very proud of how they played and conducted themselves in defeat. This is just the type of example that we want our children and young people to follow. We need more people like Raheem Sterling and less like those who caused mayhem yesterday.