Five things… West Ham can do to stop their fans fighting each other


Safe standing

New stadium new stadium new stadium new stadium. That’s about the gist of what we’ve heard emanating from West Ham United for the past year or so.

Everything was going to be wonderful in the new stadium.

But no sooner have the Hammers moved into their shiny, taxpayer-funded home, the club’s fans have started punching seven bells of out each other. It’s a tragic state of affairs.

At the last three matches at London Stadium, fans who prefer to sit down while watching football have clashed with fans who prefer to stand up. This is because the fans who used to stand up in their former home, Upton Park, have been scattered around the new ground – and many are now standing directly in front of fans who are either too old or too lazy to get to their feet (or too small to see over their shoulders).

Fortunately, the solution seems very simple: create an official safe standing area for the standers. Unfortunately, no Premier League club has ever been given permission do this – least of all one that doesn’t even own its stadium. Oops.

Defending properly

Given the difficulty of implementing a safe standing area, the club may have to consider other methods - at least in the short-term - to prevent fisticuffs becoming a regular London Stadium tradition, like the pre-match rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’.

One option is getting the team’s players to start playing football better.

For instance, during the first 40 minutes of last weekend’s match against Watford, when Slaven Bilic’s side built an impressive 2-0 lead, the atmosphere among Irons fans at the ground was positively jovial.

But within minutes of the second-half restarting, by which point some woeful defending had helped the visitors take a 3-2 lead, those previously happy Hammers had started punching each other in the face.

Similar violent scenes during recent games against Astra Giurgiu and Bournemouth were also played out against the backdrop of turgid football.

Some fans only sing when they’re winning; West Ham’s only fight when they’re losing.

Billy Bonds

The Hammers’ request for “a police presence” to help control the crowd at future games was turned down on Tuesday because the Met said their radios wouldn’t work inside the stadium (they love their Nick Grimshaw). Meanwhile, the agency stewards employed the do the job so far – mostly frightened teenagers on minimum wage – have been ill-equipped to deal with the orgy of violence.

But there is one man who could restore order.

Hammers legend Billy Bonds, a universally respected figure in east London and one of the world’s hardest men, could diffuse any cockney inter-fan fighting by simply approaching the melee and giving a firm shake of his index finger. The only problem is that Bonzo has shown no inclination to return to the club since turning down a Director of Football job in 1994.

Mood music

Prior to the Watford home match, West Ham chiefs sent letters to all supporters advising them that standing up was strictly forbidden. The club were so determined to clamp down on standers that some fans were reportedly ordered to sit during the pre-match ‘Bubbles’ singalong – a moment when everyone in the stadium traditionally stands.

A more sensible option would be for the club to abolish ‘Bubbles’ altogether - its riotous, macho lyrics (“Pretty bubbles in the air, they fly so high etc.”) are always bound to get people fired up - and replace it with something more soothing, such as Enya or the sound of dolphins gliding through the ocean.

Additionally, the club could try lacing the stadium bubble machine with Valium or Xanax to create a more ‘chilled’ vibe.

Move stands further away from pitch

The hidden running track that encircles the London Stadium touchline was expected to extinguish the Hammers’ cherished home atmosphere, but it appears there are still some pesky fans who are intent on trying to create one.

Incidents of shouting and singing have all been witnessed at the new ground as a mindless minority of supporters, most of them standing up, attempt to transmit words of encouragement to the players – even though they are quite far away.

Evidently, they are not far away enough.

An obvious solution for preventing fighting would be to somehow transport rowdy supporters to a place where they gained no benefit from standing up.

The ground’s expensively assembled retractable seating would be the first thing to go, allowing the running track to be unveiled in all its glory, followed by transporting the stands far enough away that the audience would be out of earshot (possibly several miles). The football action could then resume without distraction, while the fans could watch the match on their phones or tablets – pausing it wherever convenient to visit the stadium’s impressive array of food outlets.

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