England fans call for urgent review of Euro 2024 travel plans after ‘dangerous overcrowding’ at Serbia game

England will be more efficient after 'running out of energy' against Serbia, says Southgate

euro 2024, england football team, england fans call for urgent review of euro 2024 travel plans after ‘dangerous overcrowding’ at serbia game

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) has demanded an “urgent and thorough review” of travel arrangements at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen after England fans experienced “dangerous levels of overcrowding” as they tried to get home from the Euro 2024 fixture against Serbia late on Sunday night.

Thousands of supporters were left stranded at the city’s central train station three hours after full-time, with England fans reporting long queues, chaotic disorganisation and insufficient services from the stadium’s tram stop to deal with the crowd of over 50,000 people leaving the ground.

The FSA, along with England supporters group Free Lions, said they wrote to Uefa months in advance of the tournament to warn them of potential issues and claimed they were informed that arrangements had been put in place to meet the demand.

There were also long queues for tram services before the match from England’s fan zone at the Trabrennbahn Gelsenkirchen racecourse. Supporters were encouraged to visit the fan zone before the match rather than soaking in the atmosphere in the city centre and were promised regular services to the stadium, but the trams that arrived at the racecourse were already full.

There are is high chance that England will return to Gelsenkirchen on Sunday June 30 in the last-16, should Gareth Southgate’s side top Group C. England made a winning start to their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia and the last-16 fixture at the Veltins Arena will kick-off at 6pm local time.

The Veltins Arena will also stage the group stage fixtures between Italy and Spain and Portugal and Georgia, with both scheduled for the late 9pm kick-off slot. The tram operator in Gelsenkirchen, Bogestra, maintained that they were satisfied the service they provided was within the framework provided to Uefa, but will monitor the crowds at subsequent fixtures.

The FSA praised the behaviour of England fans in remaining “overwhelmingly calm, restrained and compliant” in the face of the travel issues. Despite tensions surrounding the Serbia match, with seven people arrested in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday afternoon following clashes in the city, the behaviour of both sets of supporters in trying circumstances ensured there were no further flashpoints.

“We would like to place on record our thanks to fans who have reached out to share their experiences yesterday. We are dismayed at what fans have had to go through at yesterday’s game in Gelsenkirchen,” the FSA said. “To see fans stranded in Gelsenkirchen Hauptbahnhof three hours after the game has finished due to transport problems at a major tournament is quite simply ridiculous.

“Ahead of the tournament we made it clear to Uefa and the authorities that many, many thousands of England fans would be travelling to Gelsenkirchen from the outer towns and cities in North Rhine-Westphalia and that transport back to Gelsenkirchen Hauptbahnhof from Arena AufSchalke had to be the biggest priority.

euro 2024, england football team, england fans call for urgent review of euro 2024 travel plans after ‘dangerous overcrowding’ at serbia game
Riot police stands in Hauptbahnhof main railway station prior to the Group C England v Serbia match (Getty Images)

“If Uefa are going to allocate a 9pm kick-off slot on a Sunday evening to any venue then they need to guarantee that transport arrangements are in place that allow all fans, including those going to fan zones, to travel safely, comfortably and conveniently both to, and crucially back from the venue.

“If a host city is being used which can’t accommodate the inevitable huge numbers in their city centre public spaces, then the role of a fan zone becomes even more important. Fans need to be able to get to and from any fan zone quickly and safely. In Gelsenkirchen, the FSA raised these issues with all relevant authorities well in advance, and were informed that necessary arrangements had been put in place to satisfy the potential demand. We were therefore extremely disappointed to see that the reality did not match up to the promises made.

“The late opening of the fan zone and the delayed start to the shuttle bus service were an early harbinger of the chaotic transport failures that blighted the day for so many England fans. Transport from the Trabrennbahn Gelsenkirchen (the racecourse fan zone) to the stadium was chaotic with insufficient capacity, with trams arriving already full of fans travelling from Essen. Despite the attendance at the racecourse being significantly less than supposedly planned for, it seemed to be too much for the available transport and the management of this was clumsy and poor.

“Following the game, we also have concerns once again about the lack of signage, lighting and volunteers guiding fans outside the stadium to local transport options. At the Veltins Arena tram stop there were long waits for trams back to the city with no communication from the authorities.

“Too many England fans found themselves involved in dangerous levels of overcrowding and were confronted with still being in the city three hours after the game finished, still facing travel to surrounding towns and cities to their accommodation.

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(Getty Images)

“It is remarkable that, despite facing the consequences of such inadequate provision and negligent crowd management, the thousands of England fans present remained overwhelmingly calm, restrained and compliant, thus helping to avoid more serious consequences.

“It was those same England fans who were singled out for a supposed ban on public alcohol consumption in certain parts of the city centre, a measure that the FSA had warned was unnecessary and potentially counter-productive. In practice, that ban never materialised without negative consequences.

“It is clear to us that an urgent and thorough review of arrangements is needed, with lessons learnt and dramatically enhanced provisions put in place. The initial defensive response of authorities locally suggests a complacency out of sync with what was required. The FSA, along with the FA and the UK Police, engaged with local authorities in advance of the first game and it is essential that we are involved in any review of plans.

“We had many positive experiences engaging with some excellent stakeholders in Gelsenkirchen prior to the first game, and we are more than willing to continue to engage in that process. It is to be hoped that for the next game, what is promised in those discussions is far more accurately reflected in what is actually delivered.”

The Independent has contacted Uefa asking for comment

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