Fan violence and hooliganism has once again reared its ugly head in English football as troubles flared at both Old Trafford and the London Stadium overnight.
Crowd troubles have blighted English football for decades, with some factions within rival fan bases seemingly unwilling or unable to coexist in the same space at the same time.
Following the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, where rioting fans from England caused a panicked crowd to flee, resulting in almost 40 deaths and hundreds of injuries, a hard line approach was taken and English clubs were banned from European football until the 1990s.
In 2016, it seems the hard lessons learned from the ’80s and ’90s have been forgotten by today’s generation of football ‘fan’.
Cast firmly back into the spotlight following the disgraceful scenes at this year’s European Championships, where Russian and English hooligans brought shame on their nations, crowd violence seems to be seeping back into mainstream channels of the beautiful game.
Last night in the English Football League (EFL) Cup, as Manchester United took on Manchester City and West Ham hosted Chelsea, yet more shameful scenes overshadowed the sport these so-called fans were there to support.
While United fans will be boosted by their side’s 1-0 victory over their city rivals, a disgruntled element of the visiting fan base vented their frustrations on an Old Trafford bathroom, destroying sinks and vandalising the room.
Images source: 101GreatGoals.com
While this is bad enough, it was the scenes at the difficult-to-police London Stadium, where West Ham now play their football, that have captured the headline-writers.
— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) October 26, 2016
Chelsea fans must take their fair share of the blame for the trouble behind the goal but I am sure the media will just blame West Ham fans! pic.twitter.com/ljoTvhYeq1
— West Ham Football (@westhamfootball) October 26, 2016
Scenes showing rival home fans clashing with Chelsea supporters is yet another example of just how far the beautiful game has fallen.
After these ugly scenes, Hammers boss Slaven Bilic condemned the actions of these ‘fans’ (via The Guardian):
“For those kind of things to happen, especially in England, is unacceptable.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Chelsea boss, Antonio Conte:
“I don’t really like to see these situations.”
West Ham have endured more unsavoury behaviour than most this term, as in moving to the former Olympic Stadium they now find their home ground surrounded by expansive and difficult to marshal open pedestrian areas, where fans can mix freely.
While the topography of the area should, in theory, allow fans to mingle together and enjoy the atmosphere of big match events, it is clear that those factions bent on mayhem and violence look set to ruin it for everyone else.
There is a real problem brewing again in English football. While for most honest and genuine fans it will always be about supporting their team, through the wins and defeats, for others it is not about the football. To them football merely serves as the kindling with which to spark their latest anarchic episode.
While West Ham have announced that lifetime bans will be issued to any ‘fan’ found to be involved in violence, it would seem that more needs to be done by the FA before, dare it be said, another Hillsborough or Heysel disaster jars the powers that be into action.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena