Inside the cancelled Brighton Marina Euro 2020 Big Screen Brighton News

AFTER finding the Brighton Palace Pier packed out, my friend and I walked along to the Marina Big Screen to watch England’s opening game against Croatia.

We didn’t know it then, but it would be the first and last game on the city’s largest outdoor big screen showing Euro 2020.

Organisers say the decision has been made due to “excited” fans. What actually happened?

Getting inside

We got to the screen in Marina Square shortly before 1.30pm – about half an hour before kick-off. It was already heaving with supporters so we waited at the gates on the southern side.

The rules seemed to change minute by minute and from bouncer to bouncer. Some people were allowed in if they had friends inside, others hopped over the fence unchallenged.

One moment you were told the venue had reached capacity and it would not be admitting anyone else, the next moment there was a one-in-one-out policy and if you waited long enough, you would be let in.

The Argus:

Eventually, a bouncer opened the gates and let 20 people including us inside. There were no checks and you were free to carry whatever beer you wanted inside.

Idiots with glass bottles 

Sadly, you can’t have a large gathering without a handful of absolute idiots ruining the fun for everyone else. It didn’t take long for these people to show their stupidity.

Cans were being thrown inside the crowd before the game had even started. Annoying, yes, but not out of the ordinary for big screens like this with ‘bring your own beer’.

But this took a potentially lethal turn when a handful of aforementioned idiots decided to lob glass Budweiser bottles some 20-30ft in the air directly above the large crowd.

One glass bottle smashed into the ground near where I was standing, sending revellers scurrying away and leaving a few supporters with blood trickling down their legs, an unfortunate souvenir.

I dread to think of what would have happened had this smashed into the head of a supporter. We were sadly reminded of the damage a glass bottle can cause the previous weekend.

A policewoman was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head by a bottle thrown while she attempted to move youths on from Hove Lawns.

I saw a “no glass” sign broadcast on the Big Screen for about five seconds before kick-off. But no sign was apparent to me on the outside and bouncers were letting in people with crates of the bottled beer.

Were organisers expecting people to walk back out with their beer, or chuck it all in the bin?

If you’re only telling people once they’re inside, that warning is as effective as the 14 font no smoking sign that clearly proved to be similarly useful, judging by the sea of fag butts littering the floor after the game.

Security later stormed through the crowd to kick out one or more punters. I couldn’t see anything. By the time a Chinese whisper had reached me, it was reported they had been responsible for at least one of the bottle throws.

They were escorted out to a chorus of “w***ers.

‘Football’s coming home’

We stood at the back, watching the screen through a sea of St George’s flag-clad supporters belting out heartfelt choruses out of England’s vast repertoire of songs.

Booing any sight of a Croatian player on the screen and vehemently cheering England’s gave a pantomime-like atmosphere.

You don’t get that silliness inside a cosy pub, you’ll be too busy talking to regulars about line-ups and the like.

Self-declared conductors jumped onto their friends’ backs to excite the crowd into song.

One guy attempted to get a drunken rendition of ‘Ten German Bombers’ going before falling on his backside to the delight of the onlooking crowd.

Success in the 2018 World Cup saw a new chant dedicated to Crawley-raised England manager Gareth Southgate.

To the tune of Atomic Kitten’s 2000 hit Whole Again, supporters sang “Southgate you’re the one, you still turn me on, football’s coming home again”.

To be honest, I was happy with any song that wasn’t Three Lions – an overplayed track that seems a little optimistic for the first game of the tournament.

That said, as the game kicked off, I started singing it too.

A love story?

It felt great to be back watching football with a large group. Although we found some space at the back, fans were huddled close together at the centre.

There were no extra seating options that I could see, except the cafe’s chairs which I presume are put out for the summer season. There were no barriers limiting people into areas, such as pens, to ensure social distancing.

Although a great game to watch, my favourite moment came after a young fan began to serenade a woman watching from her balcony.

She seemed about his age and was happy with the attention, laughing as he cried out “Cinderella” towards the balcony. Neither of them seemed too bothered about the game at this point.

The Argus: 'Cinderella on the balcony'‘Cinderella on the balcony’

Using the digits on his hand, he signed his number as fans cheered on for her to give him a call.

She did so, prompting a cheer from the fans, worthy of an injury-time goal. Chants of “she’s coming home” soon followed.

However, I doubt any “coming home” actually happened. He was spotted rubbing sun-cream lotion into the back of another stranger shortly into the second half.

It didn’t appear to go unnoticed, she visibly gave him the red card from the balcony.

It was a silly move for the lad considering he was punching well above his weight to begin with.

People were free to celebrate again

As you may have heard, and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way of the flood of fans coming home can attest, England won and football’s coming home again.

After a year of misery, death and lockdowns, people were free to celebrate again.

With so much built-up anger and frustration, Raheem Sterling’s goal against the Croatian side – and the whole game – gave an outlet for that emotion.

Groups hugged and cheered as we took the lead, even those on the balconies clapped along as beer (no bottles) was thrown skyward.

I’m 26 and most people were younger than me. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend your late teens/early 20s kept indoors under legal instruction and away from your friends.

Most have diligently done so to protect their loved ones from the deadly pandemic and now they have been allowed out with their friends to watch the first game of an international tournament.

Many people have questioned whether they were part of an “illegal gathering”. After all, pub gardens weddings and funerals face strict regulations, how can hundreds of people gather to watch a football game?

As I’ll explain later, large outdoor venues are allowed to operate under guidelines. That said, a handful cannot be excused from their own personal behaviour.

The Argus: People cannot be excused from their own stupid behaviourPeople cannot be excused from their own stupid behaviour

People are still ultimately responsible for their own social distancing from others. This is especially important considering rates in the city are rising highest in the 15-29 age bracket.

And for the people throwing bottles, or engaging in anti-social behaviour, they should take a long hard look at their actions.

Clean-up effort 

Pubs had been told by police to close for an hour following the game. This meant a stream of hundreds of people left the Marina, shouting at passers-by and reportedly blocking cars.

An unsightly mess was left on the ground at the event. Broken glass bottles and cans littered the entire area.

However, some fans stayed behind at the end to clean up the mess. One fan took it to upon themselves to find trays so that people could sort the rubbish between different recyclable materials.

Some – perhaps overeager – fans attempted to pick up the glass from the floor with their bare hands. At least one person was left bleeding.

By the time the council’s environment team arrived at the scene, it was mainly the glass too small to pick up and the boxes of collected rubbish for them to clear.

So was it illegal?

Since May 17 large outdoor venues have been able to operate but must do so within guidelines.

Organisers can only admit 4,000 people or 50 per cent of the site’s capacity, whichever is lower.

However, an event cannot take place if it is unlikely that social distancing can be maintained.

Complaints about whether the regulations are right, considering restrictions on other activities, should be directed at the government.

Complaints about whether social distancing could reasonably be maintained should be directed at organisers.

The Argus:

In our experience down there, the rules were confused or not enforced. Few actions appeared to have been taken to ensure social distancing as per requirements.

Considering operating at 50 per cent capacity is a legal requirement, it’s important to know what your capacity actually is. I haven’t found this anywhere online.

How can this be enforced if it’s not clear what constitutes 100 per cent? Maybe the organisers know.

That said, organisers should be praised for their ambition to bring some cheer after a gloomy year. Any missteps on confusing and changing rules cannot also excuse fans from their own personal behaviour.

Where do we go now?

The big screen was a flame too bright to last. This morning Brighton Marina announced that England v Croatia would be its only and last game.

The fans just got too “excited”, Brighton Marina said.

I’m glad we got to experience it, but to be fair to the organisers, I’m not surprised they blew the final whistle before the tournament really kicked off.

It’s not fair on the nearby residents and it was only set to get bigger and rowdier as word spread and England progressed.

However, it does make you ponder the alternative.

Now, these few hundred fans cannot go to the outdoor Marina, where will they now watch the match? Cramping inside city pubs? Inviting friends around to watch it on TV?

Hosting these games outside seemed like a solution to the issue inevitably caused by worldwide sporting events. For many, they’re social events and they will gather to watch the games. It’s just a matter of where.

For this reason, it would be interesting to know what happened to the incredibly popular Luna Beach Cinema which normally takes place on the beach at the western end of Madeira Drive.

The Argus: The Luna Beach Cinema did not return this yearThe Luna Beach Cinema did not return this year

That venue was far better suited for crowds of this size, sold its own beer within the event grounds and had suitable toilet provision.

Door controls were stricter and I remember requiring wristbands for entry, which would have made controlling the size of the crowd easier.

However, thinking it through, as with previous international football tournaments, large crowds would also gather on Madeira Drive Itself.

We are looking to put together a list of alternatives for people to watch the Euro 2020 games.

So if you’re a venue welcoming football fans for the Euro 2020 games, send me an email at

Brighton Marina says it will be ‘apply learnings’

A spokeswoman for Brighton Marina responded: “The health and safety of our guests is of paramount importance to us.

“Together with our external security team, we will be reviewing security measures at Saturday’s (sic) event so that we can apply learnings to future events.”  

The spokeswoman previously said: “It is with great sadness that we have taken the decision to cancel the screening of the Euros at Brighton Marina.

“We ensured that the appropriate safety measures and restrictions were put in place to adhere to Government regulations for Covid and social distancing, but it seems the excitement of being able to watch live football meant that it was very difficult for all measures to be adhered to during the screenings.

“Public safety is paramount to us, and in light of the recent extension of Government regulations to July 19, we have made the tough decision to cancel further screenings of live football with immediate effect.

“We are actively looking into alternative entertainment we can bring to our residents and visitors with the big screen this summer and details will be circulated as soon as we can share any updates.”

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This notice was published: 2021-06-15 15:55:00

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