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West Ham threatened with ultimate sanction amid fan violence

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
West Ham and Chelsea fans clashed on Wednesday night
West Ham and Chelsea fans clashed on Wednesday night

West Ham may be forced to play games behind closed doors until security issues at their London Stadium are resolved, according to a prominent UK politician.

Ugly clashes between West Ham and Chelsea fans marred the EFL Cup clash on Wednesday night, with the latest outbreaks of hooliganism adding to what is already a long list of disturbing incidents that have become the norm since the Hammers moved from their Upton Park base last summer.

While West Ham are not responsible to stewarding and policing at a stadium they are renting, pressure is now being applied to the club to respond to the recurring problems that are marring their move to the venue that was used to host the showpiece events of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The crisis has inspired Mark Field, vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary football group and Cities of London and Westminster Conservative MP, to suggest West Ham need to come up with a plan to resolve the crowd segregation issues.

“Within the next 14 days, the board of West Ham United FC should present a detailed plan to the FA and Premier League outlining what they are going to do about security,” said Field, in quotes appearing in the Evening Standard.

“None of these problems were unforeseeable, given the nature of the stadium and difficulties with policing large footballing crowds.

“There have been some clear failings and they now need to move with urgency to deliver a plan about segregation and broader public order issues.

“If there is a repeat of the violence, the next two or three home games for West Ham should be played behind closed doors.”

UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch also joined the debate, as she suggested the scenes at West Ham have been reminiscent of football in its darker days:

“No-one wants to see a return to the dark days of the late ‘70s and ‘80s,” she stated.

“It is completely right that strong action is taken and that anyone involved in last night’s trouble is banned for life.”

West Ham chiefs may well argue that crowd control at the London Stadium is out of their control, but it is clear that they need to work quickly to find a solution to resolve what is increasingly in danger of becoming a disastrous relocation.