Friday, October 28

Should stadium security be such a big story?

West Ham are rightly banning 200 fans identified as throwing missiles and confronting the Chelsea fans on Wednesday, and hopefully Chelsea will do the same to their offenders. But the press do seem to be making a lot out of the stadium security story. Does it warrant two and a half pages in the Guardian and three pages in the Sun and Daily Telegraph? The security line did hold and there was no actual fighting, while outside the ground trouble appears to have been largely prevented. The scenes shown on TV looked terrible, but the riot police moved in within 60 seconds and the idiots doing the taunting and throwing will be easily identified on the closed circuit TV pictures. Yet now we have rent-a-quote MPs suggesting the ground should be shut.

There's also a press myth that there has been constant trouble among the 57,000 fans at the London Stadium. The four arrests against Middlesbrough are often cited, though two of these were apparently for touting and smoking cannabis and that's a lot fewer arrests than we used to get at Upton Park. There was very limited trouble between a few home fans over standing up at the FC Astra and Watford games and some problems with holding the segregation line against Watford, but that's it. 

Manchester City fans smashed up the sinks in the away end at Old Trafford on Wednesday and it gets much less coverage. There's been trouble at other grounds and last season's Europa League Final that has mostly gone unreported. I've seen punch-ups and riot police round the back of the old East Stand at Upton Park on many a night. Remember the Millwall League Cup game? It wasn't a haven of tranquility. Could it be that some sectors of the press resent the public funding that has gone into the London Stadium and want it to fail?

Though it's fair to say that there are problems with the design of the stadium. At present it seems you can walk all the way around it and it needs more effective barriers between the stands. The area of empty seats between the home and away fans didn't work either, as the fans involved in the trouble simply ran across it. The stewarding has to improve and LS185 is at least using more experienced football stewards now. The police will get their Airwave radio soon which will improve security. We should also remember that Wednesday night was a cup game with many people attending who are not season ticket holders. At league games the club should know exactly who is seated next to the away fans and be able to confiscate the season tickets of any miscreants. 

And yes, the fans too have to accept their share of responsibility for behaving well. There were always going to be problems in the first season at the new stadium; but separating the home and away fans should not be insurmountable, nor should excluding the small minority of West Ham fans who still want some 1970-style aggro.


sabina said...

My son was at the Chelsea game with my brother in law (I couldn't make it) we are season ticket holders and next to the away fans. My son agrees with the article above and also thinks that there is some serious over exaggeration by the press

Pete May said...

Glad he agrees Sabina, was bad at the time but not the massive riot reported in the press.

PT said...

I agree with everything you've written. When things kicked off on Wednesday it seemed from where I was that it was the Chelsea fans who started throwing seats etc and attacked the line of stewards. This has barely been mentioned in the papers and it's been made to seem that innocent away fans are being attacked at every game. I don't want to start pointing the blame at Just the Chelsea fans as our fans didn't hesitate in lobbing stuff back at them and spent the last 10 mins looking at and taunting the Chelsea fans instead of watching a great match.
Also being in my 50s it does make me smile when people say it's like the 70/80s. As Vietnam vets say "you had to be there man".

Pete May said...

Cheers PT, yes some Chelsea fans were certainly up for it and one of heir fans got through the stewards, which isn't to condone our fans either. I was there in the 70s too and you'd see fist fights on the South Bank and mayhem in the streets outside… we're not quite back to that!