England’s progress to the Euro 2020 final caused a “significant risk to public health across the UK”, according to scientists from Public Health England (PHE).
Data from NHS Test and Trace showed that more than 9,000 COVID cases were linked to Euro 2020 football games.
Wembley hosted eight matches during the month-long tournament and figures indicated there were a total of 3,036 likely infectious cases at the time of those games, with a further combined 6,376 people likely getting infected around the time they took place.
A report on the public health impact of mass events also found that “particularly high numbers were identified” at the Euro 2020 final on 11 July, a match which England lost on penalties to Italy.
Data showed 2,295 people in or around Wembley were likely to have been infectious at the time of the match, with a further 3,404 people in and around the ground potentially being infected around the time of the final.
England played all but one of their six Euro 2020 games at Wembley, with their quarter-final against Ukraine played in Rome.
The report’s authors concluded that Euro 2020 and England’s progress to the final “generated a significant risk to public health across the UK even when England played overseas”.
“This risk arose not just from individuals attending the event itself, but included activities undertaken during travel and associated social activities,” they added.
“For the final and semi-final games at Wembley, risk mitigation measures in place were less effective in controlling COVID transmission than was the case for other mass spectator sports events.”
Dr Jenifer Smith, deputy medical director of Public Health England, said: “Euro 2020 was a unique occasion and it is unlikely we would see a similar impact on COVID-19 cases from future events.
“However, the data does show how easily the virus can spread when there is close contact and this should be a warning to us all as we try and return to a cautious normality once again.”
The NHS Test and Trace data also showed 585 cases were recorded at the time of the British Grand Prix, which hosted the largest crowd in the UK in over 18 months, with more than 350,000 people attending the event over three days.
When broken down, the 585 cases show that 343 of those were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event.
The other 242 cases are from people likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the Grand Prix.
The Wimbledon Championships, which hosted around 300,000 people in a two-week period, recorded 881 cases through the test and trace system.
Of those, 299 were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the major sporting event, and 582 people were likely to have caught the infection around the time it was taking place.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’ve shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings.
“So that we can keep the football season, theatres, and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music, and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more.”