September 12 – West Ham United’s move to London’s 60,000-capacity Olympic Stadium has not been the smooth process the club would have hoped for with the club’s fans clashing with stewards and opposition Watford fans last weekend.
While not marking a wholsecale return to the violence of English football in the1970s and 1980s and the so-called ‘inter city firm’ that terrorised West Ham’s match days, the scenes were both ugly and concerning for a club that was championing the family atmosphere and cheap youth tickets in its new stadium ticket marketing.
One of the issues is that the club can’t quite get to the 60,000-capacity limit because a group of fans are refusing to sit in their seats during the match (a condition of licensing the ground’s full capacity). That in itself has created flashpoints between fans and stewards. Though the sight of West Ham fans fighting amongst themselves didn’t contribute to a family-entertainment environment.
West Ham reacted fast to the disturbances saying that they will give lifetime bans (and ask courts to enforce banning orders) to those it identifies as causing trouble of part of its “zero tolerance” policy to disruptive behaviour.
A club statement said: “West Ham unreservedly condemn the behaviour of the individuals involved in incidents during (Saturday’s) fixture against Watford.
“While these isolated incidents were quickly brought under control, this behaviour has no place in football and West Ham will work tirelessly to eradicate such incidents.”
So far there has been just one arrest so far this season but around a dozen supporters have had their season-tickets cancelled.
The club said “they are currently undertaking an immediate full review with all stakeholders. This includes police, stadium landlord and operator LS185, who are responsible for appointing and managing stewards and security, to ensure we eradicate such incidents moving forward.”
But the incidents seem to keep coming and the promises to fix them have a familiar ring.
For their opening Premier League match against Bournemouth at the Olympic stadium capacity had been reduced to 57,000 by The London Stadium Safety Advisory Group (LSSAG) and Newham Council – due to the fans standing issue at a Europa Cup qualifying game.
But despite the crowd restriction there were still some fans who had bought tickets but had no seat to sit in. One ticket holder tweeted West Ham execs saying “@karren_brady @davidgold Block 214 row 73 no seats! Not happy”.
Brady responded with an apology. “I can only apologise LS185 [London Stadium 185, the stadium operator] say admin error,” she wrote, “…we will make sure it is rectified LS185 will be compensating 56 supporters affected.”
That match was also marred by isolated incidents of West Ham fans clashing with stewards and opposition fans. This last weekend was an escalation of that violence that the club and the “stakeholders” will need to act on with more than a meeting before the Olympic Stadium becomes known as being a dangerous and toxic venue for home and away supporters.
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