'I could have shown a pizza discount code to get in': Fans ridicule checks on Covid Passports at Wembley and Wimbledon as PM Boris Johnson urges major events to use them after Freedom Day, with the Premier League season only four weeks away
- Spectators question why Covid pass codes were not scanned on entry to stadia
- Fans say that rules set by Government for Covid Passport test events at are easily avoided by using other people's codes or faking lateral flow test results
- Criticism comes as Boris Johnson urges large events to use Covid passes after Freedom Day on July 19, when legal restrictions on social distancing are lifted
- Premier League season with crowds up to 70,000 starts in just four weeks' time
Published: 15:08, 13 July 2021 | Updated: 18:17, 13 July 2021
Spectators at Wembley and Wimbledon have highlighted major flaws in the Covid certification system intended to protect fans from infection.
But spectators at the biggest test events this summer insist the system is simply not fit for purpose with fans reportedly sharing QR codes and test results to dupe Covid inspectors.
Covid checks were abandoned at Wembley around two hours before kick-off as stewards were redeployed to protect entrances and the police had to intervene to help manage the crowd
The mechanism for checking Covid status has been fixed by Government and its scientific advisors as part of the Events Research Programme, not by the venues.
Fans at Wembley for Euro 2020, where more than 60,000 fans watched the two semi-finals and final, have said they could have shown a pizza discount code to overworked stewards, who performed cursory checks, and still gained access to the stadium.
Ultimately, the Covid checks at the stadium were abandoned entirely ahead of the final after rampaging mobs attacked turnstiles and forced entry, causing stewards to be redeployed to defend entrances rather than check health passports and test results.
A UEFA official has suggested as many as 5,000 fans burst through turnstiles.
At Wimbledon, where 15,000 people packed Centre Court during the second week of the Championships, there was no trouble among the more genteel crowd, but the complaints over ineffective Covid checks was exactly the same.
Fans stormed through the security barriers at Wembley ahead of England's match with Italy
One tennis fan, claimed she could have displayed her husband's Covid certification and waltzed through the cordon unopposed.
The events have raised concern over the spread of Covid at some of the summer's major sporting events and raised questions about how the government will ensure the system works better when crowds of up to 70,000 people return to Premier League football in four weeks' time.
Government has been running test events to trial the NHS Covid App as part of the third phase of the Events Research Programme, including the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final and Wimbledon among others.
The availability of the app and the checks were the justification for ramping up attendances at Wimbledon and Wembley, even though the Delta variant of the virus has led to a third wave of infection.
Covid checks were supposed to be carried out at the top of Wembley Way before the game
However, the system of checks only involves a steward casting perfunctory eye over the NHS app, or results of a lateral flow test, before waving the person through.
The NHS Covid app records if a person has had two doses of the vaccine, a negative test for the virus or had naturalimmunity.
At no point is the QR code, which is generated by the app to indicate the Covid status of the individual, scanned, or the identity of the person checked against their ticket. There is also concern that supporters can simply report their negative test and could lie about the result.
Administrators within major sports have expressed surprise that the checks have not been more rigorous.
One source told Sportsmail: 'No one is scanning the Covid data. They just have a quick look at the phone.
And you could just lie about test results.'
Fans were also stunned at how easy it was to hoodwink Covid inspectors at these major venues.
'No QR code readers at Wembley,' tweeted Nottingham Forest fan, Martyn Scott. 'The steward just asked me if [the QR code] meant I'd had two vaccinations. I said yes. He said go through.
I could have used a free pizza code.'
A Wembley steward told LBC radio that fans were turning up with screenshots of other people's Covid status to access the stadium during the tournament.
'It's common knowledge amongst the fans that there are screenshots going on and people are sending one another their negative tests,' the steward, who gave his name as Richard from Oxford, said ahead of England's semi-final against Denmark.
Went to Croatia game, put in event code of "euros" to NHS App to generate the 2 jab QR code. No QR readers at Wembley, the steward just asked me if that meant I'd had two vaccinations, I said yes, he said go through. I could have used a free pizza code!-- Martyn Scott ?? ? (@Martyns5) July 7, 2021
Covid test event, is and was easily overcome, bonafide fans either passing round Covid negative NHS texts, or as you self assess, not bothering 'taking' test and stating it's negative.July 12, 2021
Barriers were breached allowing some fans without tickets to race into Wembley
Capacity for the game was set at more than 60,000 with fans meant to have a Covid check before entry
However, thousands of fans passed through cordons at the final without their Covid pass being checked
The steward said his role was not to 'check ID' and they had no way of verifying that the test result corresponded to the person standing in front of them.
'A large proportion of fans are coming into the game and they haven't performed a test,' he added.
Fans confirmed the practice on social media.
'Covid test event, is and was easily overcome, bonafide fans either passing round Covid negative NHS texts,' tweeted one fan who goes by the Twitter handle, @anmol3, who had been to Wembley.
'Or as you self-assess, not bothering 'taking' test and stating it's negative. No chance for stewards or Wembley to check veracity of text, email shown. #EURO2020 #Euros2021.
England suffered heart-break after losing on penalties to Italy when the game had finished 1-1
Italy celebrated their second European Championship win with an accomplished performance
Ahead of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy, the checking system collapsed entirely around 6pm on Sunday as thousands of ticketless fans moved up Wembley Way, breached the outer cordon where Covid checks were being carried out, and then targeted the turnstiles.
In extraordinary scenes, stewards had to fall back to help protect entrances, although scores of fans still gained entry. An inquiry has been launched by the Football Association.
'No ticket or COVID checks resulting in chaos at Wembley.
Blame will be put on the English for a spike in COVID deaths, hospitalisations...,' tweeted one Arsenal fan, who attended the match.
'They just released everyone ticket or no ticket, no Covid checks at all. Because of this you didn't get your ticket activated & then chaos at turnstiles,' said another supporter, who tweets as Steve.
During the Covid check stewards activated spectators' electronic tickets by tapping the screens of smartphones in specific places. Since thousands went through unchecked their tickets had not been activated and they could not access the ground through the electronic turnstiles without assistance.
In some cases, fans were activating each other's tickets once word of the technique had spread.
However, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who attended the match, did have his Covid Pass reviewed by a steward.
Part of the plan, no ticket or COVID checks resulting in chaos at Wembley.
Blame will be put on the English for a spike in COVID deaths, hospitalisations and cases giving the powers that be an excuse to keep restrictions in place and eventually put us into another lockdown. pic.twitter.com/FBr95H5x0f-- Rhys (@waitesyrhys) July 12, 2021
That just triggered even more problems Scott...the Q to go through covid checks at Wembley way became so bad & such a crush that they just released everyone ticket or no ticket,no covid checks at all. Because of this you didn't get your ticket activated & then chaos at turnstiles-- Steve (@BlueYeti72) July 12, 2021
So good to be here at Wembley. Tonight will see the largest crowd at a sporting event in the UK in the last 16 months, all thanks to our world-leading Events Research Programme.
Just shown proof of my vaccination in the NHS app and now heading up to my seat. COME ON ENGLAND! ? pic.twitter.com/nZUC2LISBZ-- Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) July 7, 2021
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden attended Euro 2020 final and his Covid pass was checked
'So good to be here at Wembley,' he tweeted on Sunday evening. 'Tonight, will see the largest crowd at a sporting event in the UK in the last 16 months, all thanks to our world-leading Events Research Programme. Just shown proof of my vaccination in the NHS app and now heading up to my seat. COME ON ENGLAND!
In a statement, the FA, which runs Wembley Stadium, said: 'We will carry out a full review and investigation into the events that took place at Wembley Stadium before and during the UEFA EURO 2020 final,' the statement wrote.
'This will be done in collaboration with the Police, the Greater London Authority, the Safety Advisory Group and the tournament delivery stakeholders.'
However, the results of that review have been pre-empted after a UEFA official told freelance AIPS reporter Chris Williams that 5,000 people breached the stadium's security.
The Premier League has said it anticipates Covid Passports will be required at top flight stadiums this season in order to maintain full capacities in the face of surges in Covid infection rates, but no further details have been given about how this may work or if QR code scanners will be installed.
Previously, the Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove, who oversaw a length review of Covid Passports, said they may be required at football grounds with a capacity above 20,000.
And the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed on Monday night that he expects them to be used, insisting that people must exercise 'extreme caution' when legal restrictions on social distancing are scrapped from July 19.
The PM said venues with large crowds - which would include Premier League and some EFL football grounds - would be urged to adopt Covid certification 'as a matter of social responsibility'.
He said relevant businesses should 'make use' of the NHS Covid app, which shows proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity, as 'a means of entry'.
Meanwhile, in SW19, Wimbledon tennis fans were also taken aback at the nature of the Covid checks.
Covid checks were in place at Wimbledon but did not require QR codes to be scanned
I know what you mean.
Also, no actual scan check for covid , I could have shown my husband's result!!-- Jane West (@Janeytheshark) July 5, 2021
Reports from journalists in The Guardian of too few Wembley stewards and many passing without checks.
At the very sedate Wimbledon queueing last week we flashed our (genuine) NHS App vax certificates but, as you found, nothing more than a cursory glance.-- Ann Hacke ? (@AnnHacke) July 13, 2021
All well & good to have Covid vax checks at @Wimbledon but if you don't cross check those to ID, then effectiveness is clearly reduced as nothing to prevent somebody presenting somebody else's vax certificate.-- Martin (@youngmartinc) July 11, 2021
Jane West from Cambridgeshire tweeted: 'No actual scan check for Covid, I could have shown my husband's result!!'
And Ann Hacke from West Sussex, wrote on Twitter: 'At the very sedate Wimbledon queueing last week we flashed our (genuine) NHS App vax certificates but, as you found, nothing more than a cursory glance.'
'All well & good to have Covid vax checks at @Wimbledon but if you don't cross check those to ID, then effectiveness is clearly reduced as nothing to prevent somebody presenting somebody else's vax certificate,' tweeted @youngmartinc.
The third phase of the Events Research Programme has included international cricket matches and will also feature the Rugby League Challenge Cup final at Wembley, The Open golf championship at Royal St George's and British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone.