West Ham fans bloodied a Fiorentina player by pelting him with missiles during the Europa Conference League final.
In further ugly scenes, after the match West Ham fans clashed with riot police in Prague.
Just three weeks after West Ham fans and players’ families were set upon by AZ Alkmaar thugs, the club’s historic European campaign was again soured, with Italian ultras attacking West Ham supporters in central Prague.
However, inside the Eden Arena, it was the West Ham end that was at fault as supporters threw a dozen plastic pint cups and a vape at Fiorentina’s Cristiano Biraghi. The final had to be halted temporarily as medics attended to a gash to Biraghi’s head and the referee ushered the furious Italian players to the halfway line.
The stadium announcer appealed to the supporters: “Stop throwing objects onto the pitch immediately - please respect the players and officials.”
Uefa said immediately afterwards that it will wait for a report into the incident, but well-placed sources told Telegraph Sport the club is certain to be punished.
“It’s moronic behaviour,” said the former West Ham midfielder Joe Cole during BT Sport coverage. “I’ve had it myself being hit by things – it needs to be sorted out and taken out of the game.”
The mood had turned in the West Ham end in the minutes prior to the incident as fans had been booing earlier decision-making by Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande.
Immediately after West Ham secured victory, the club issued a statement saying that it “unreservedly” condemned “the behaviour of a small number of individuals who threw objects onto the pitch”. Those who threw the missile face indefinite bans, the club added.
“These actions have no place in football, and do not in any way represent the values of our football club and the overwhelming majority of our supporters, who have behaved impeccably in Prague this week and throughout our last two seasons in European competition,” the club added.
Violence on the streets of Prague
West Ham fans clashed with riot police in Prague after the match. Supporters poured into the streets of the Czech capital, with many already in the city centre after thousands travelled from the UK without tickets. But a scuffle broke out after police officers tried to confiscate a lit flare as fans gathered in the Old Town area of the city.
Riot police stormed a group after they lit a second flare, with fans responding by pelting the officers with bottles and missiles.
Earlier in the day Czech police said they had detained at least 16 Italian fans after they attacked West Ham supporters outside a bar, with videos shared on social media showing chairs and fireworks being thrown.
Prague police had been anticipating trouble and had a heavy presence throughout the main drinking spots. Several videos appeared on social media of the clash in which police said three West Ham fans were injured. An officer was also attacked as the violence was broken up. “We have been repeatedly targeted throughout this tournament,” said one fan who witnessed the attack but refused to give his name. “They burst into the pub with flares before tearing into us”
Prague: @skynews obtains video of fighting ahead of West Ham-Fiorentina #UECLfinal with eyewitnesses later saying a group of Italians with fireworks and weapons attacked West Ham fans leading to fighting and street covered in broken glass pic.twitter.com/7KKqWfv4VU
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) June 7, 2023
Chris Knoll was among travelling support
At least 15,000 West Ham fans descended on the city. Hundreds of ticketless supporters tried their luck around the stadium perimeter but there were few local touts and most were diverted to the city’s fanzone.
Having learnt lessons from the chaos at the Champions League final in Paris last year, Uefa and local forces operated a slick operation immediately around the stadium. Temporary metal fencing snaked along the main road.
Among the crowds in Prague was Chris Knoll, 58, the fan praised by the players and fellow supporters for fending off AZ Alkmaar ultras after the semi-final. He was rewarded by the club with a ticket for the game and was seen posing for photographs with supporters ahead of kick-off.
West Ham and Fiorentina were each allocated only 5,780 tickets for the match, due to Slavia Prague’s stadium having a capacity of only around 19,000.
Singer Chesney Hawkes, who performed on the pitch at an England game during the World Club, was among entertainers keeping West Ham supporters entertained at Letna Park. He described his performance ahead of kick off as “the best gig of my life”. The pop star, whose song The One And Only was a No 1 hit in the UK for five weeks in 1991, is a lifelong West Ham fan.
“Just to be amongst these people, this is my family right here,” he said. “It was amazing, absolutely incredible, felt the love. To have my whole family on-stage, my son, my brother, my best friend, it was just a dream come true.”