Wednesday, July 18

Were G4S on the door at the White Horse Final?

A mischievous thought occurs. Were G4S responsible for the security at the 1923 White Horse Cup Final between West Ham and Bolton? While researching my new e-book Flying So High: West Ham's Cup Finals (Endeavour) I've noticed several parallels between 1923 and today's Olympics security fiasco. Wembley was a brand new stadium built for the British Empire Exhibition and was only completed four days before the FA Cup Final. Oh, and no-one remembered to make the Final all ticket. There was a strong suspicion the stadium wasn’t properly ready and the perimeter defences were flimsy. The security was rubbish and there were far too few police. So nothing new there, then. 

Another factor was that Wembley had been hyped as the latest wonder of the world, a stadium so vast that it could cope with any number of fans with all having a perfect view. Only then 200,000 plus fans turned up when it could only hold 125,000. The gates were shut at 1.45pm but the blokes in flat caps outside then broke through the gates and went "over the top" of the perimeter fences and the crowd ended up all over the pitch, with 1000 fans injured. The FA immediately denied responsibility saying it was all Wembley's fault (presumably they insisted they could meet targets). 

If it does all go wrong at the Olympic Stadium, the Excel or the Velodrome then the authorities might learn from the White Horse Cup Final, where the crowd remained good-humoured. The arrival of the King prevented a riot and he said keep calm and carry on things like "Steady on boys!", causing the crowd to break into a rousing chorus of God Save the King. Then Billie the famous White Horse (actually a grey) and his rider PC Scorey arrived to help clear the pitch and the game went ahead with the crowd actually on the touchlines and sometimes the pitch. West Ham's Tresadern was caught in the crowd as Bolton scored their first. There's also an argument that the players believed it was a friendly and the real final would be played later when the conditions were less chaotic, so West Ham could legitimately demand a replay. The Daily Mail described the stewarding as "useless", questions were asked in the House and an inquiry was demanded. Is it too late for G4S to recruit a white horse?

No comments: