Wenger down­plays hooli­gan­ism

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

HOOLI­GAN­ISM is not a prob­lem in English foot­ball, ac­cord­ing to Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger, de­spite a week in which dis­tur­bances at West Ham United's League Cup tie against Chelsea tar­nished the game's glossy im­age.

West Ham are threat­en­ing to ban 200 fans af­ter study­ing video of the ugly scenes which marred their vic­tory at their new Lon­don Sta­dium home on Wed­nes­day, a re­minder of the 1970s and 1980s, when vi­o­lence was com­mon­place in Bri­tish foot­ball.

Seats and coins were thrown and stew­ards strug­gled to keep hun­dreds of ri­val fans apart in the clos­ing stages of a tie that was broad­cast live around the world.

"I don't be­lieve there is a hooligan prob­lem in Eng­land. You can­not say 200 peo­ple is a gen­eral prob­lem in the coun­try," Wenger told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

"I'm sur­prised even more than be­ing dis­ap­pointed. West Ham is usu­ally a very strong fan base, very mo­ti­vated. In Eng­land we are not used to fac­ing these problems any more."

Wenger even ad­vo­cates a re­turn to safe stand­ing ar­eas in Pre­mier League sta­di­ums af­ter they were phased out in the wake of the Hills­bor­ough dis­as­ter, when 96 fans died at an FA Cup tie in 1989.

"I am in favour of the resur­gence of stand­ing be­hind the goals and (Wed­nes­day's scenes) is not a good ad­vert to come back to stand­ing," he said. "Hope­fully West Ham will get rid of the prob­lem very quickly."

West Ham's move out of their Up­ton Park ground to the Lon­don 2012 Olympic Sta­dium has been plagued by problems, with crowd trou­ble at most of their home games so far.

Stew­ard­ing, the de­sign of the sta­dium and a lack of a strong po­lice pres­ence have all been blamed and the club has al­ready banned 23 sup­port­ers.

De­spite the problems on Wed­nes­day which even­tu­ally saw riot po­lice move in to quell the trou­ble, the op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing 900 stew­ards was deemed ef­fec­tive.

"The re­sponse of our safety and se­cu­rity teams was mea­sured, fast and ef­fec­tive and we com­mend the stew­ard­ing," a spokesman for Lon­don Sta­dium part­ners West Ham, E20 Sta­dium LLP and Lon­don Sta­dium 185, said.

"It must be stressed that the vast ma­jor­ity of West Ham and vis­it­ing sup­port­ers be­haved im­pec­ca­bly." im­pec­ca­bly"

One MP has called for West Ham to play games be­hind closed doors should the club fail to come up with an ef­fec­tive plan to erad­i­cate the in­ci­dents.

Wenger, whose Arse­nal side visit West Ham in De­cem­ber, said that would be the wrong re­ac­tion.

"There is noth­ing more dire than that. I pre­fer not to play than to play games be­hind closed doors," he said.

The Foot­ball Sup­port­ers Fed­er­a­tion (FSF) – a voice for all fans —said it has been "mon­i­tor­ing" the sit­u­a­tion at the Lon­don Sta­dium all sea­son and had ob­servers in the ground on Wed­nes­day.

"To­gether with our West Ham United and Chelsea mem­bers, and af­fil­i­ated groups, we are now seek­ing to get con­struc­tive feed­back of sup­port­ers' ex­pe­ri­ences," a state­ment said.

"We hope to work with the club and rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide mean­ing­ful in­put into any post-match de­briefs.

"The FSF reaf­firms our com­mit­ment to the erad­i­ca­tion of vi­o­lence from foot­ball and would never con­done be­hav­iour such as that wit­nessed among a small mi­nor­ity of fans."

The FSF stressed that foot­ball-re­lated ar­rests fell to a record low in the 2014-15 – 4.9 ar­rests per 100 000 fans.

"Peo­ple are 11 times as likely to be ar­rested at Glas­ton­bury (mu­sic fes­ti­val), than at foot­ball," it said when the fig­ures were re­leased. — Reuters

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