West Ham will lodge a fierce defence to avoid the London Stadium being closed by apportioning blame for crowd trouble on the stadium owners.
Multiple pitch invasions and crowd disturbances blighted Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat by Burnley. One fan ran onto the pitch and was challenged by Hammers’ captain Mark Noble and another attempted to plant a corner flag on the centre circle, while others approached the directors’ box to confront club owners.
The relegation-threatened Hammers face an FA enquiry, a Premier League probe and police investigation, but it’s the FA that has the power to order a game, or games, in such a precarious position for the team, to be played behind closed doors.
However, Zapsportz.com has exclusively learned that the club’s mitigation against any severe penalties to be imposed by the FA is that “inadequate stewarding and security” is down to the stadium owners.
From an impeccable high-ranking source within the club, Zapsportz.com obtained a comment that pointed the finger directly at the stadium owners.
“Blame the stadium owners for inadequate stewarding and security. They provide it – not us.”
BBC Sports reported that police said there were four separate pitch invasions and that they have received two allegations of assault, which they said are being investigated.
West Ham will be calling for a police presence at all their remaining home games, starting with Southampton on 31 March, when all the stadium’s stakeholders are together at an emergency meeting to discuss the “inadequate stewarding and security”.
West Ham immediately released a statement to reveal that an emergency meeting was planned.
It said: “West Ham United have immediately launched a full and thorough investigation into the incidents which marred the second half of today’s match and are committed to taking decisive and appropriate action.
“An emergency meeting has been called with all London Stadium stakeholders. There will be no further comment at this time.”
The FA released a statement saying it “strongly condemns the crowd disturbances seen at West Ham United versus Burnley and will be seeking observations from West Ham as well as awaiting the match referee’s report”.
The Premier League said: “It is essential that everybody who plays or attends a Premier League football match can do so safely. There is no place at any level of the game for what happened at the London Stadium today.
“While the official investigation of the incidents will be carried out by the Football Association, we will be asking our own questions of West Ham United about what happened this afternoon, especially to ensure similar events never reoccur.
“We would like to commend referee Lee Mason and his team of officials for their actions which, combined with the cooperation of players and coaching staff from both clubs, enabled the match to be completed.”
West Ham boss David Moyes said: “We want the supporters behind us, since I’ve been here they’ve been really good. But you can’t cross the line and come on the pitch. A lot of my players did well with the way they acted.”
Burnley striker Chris Wood, who scored twice, said: “It was a tough situation – I can sympathise with how the fans feel, they are passionate supporters and it is tough for them at the moment but they need to stick with their players.
“You don’t want that happening on the pitch at all – it creates problems and safety issues. I didn’t feel under threat – they were just voicing their frustration.”
Noble admitted that the atmosphere was “horrible”. The Hammers’ captain did not feel in “danger” but it was necessary to defend himself.
“I’m a West Ham fan and I’ve always protected the club. If someone approaches me, I’ll protect myself. It’s been like this for the past two seasons, since we moved to this stadium.
“Every time we lose we and the board get a lot of stick. It seemed today that the fans had had enough. They wanted to show their emotion. When fans come to the game with the hump, they know how to show their emotions.
“The atmosphere was horrible. We know a lot of it isn’t aimed at the players, but we have to be man enough to play in that atmosphere.”
Noble called for supporters to put their animosity towards the club’s board aside until the season is over.
“I’m really hoping the fans have got it off their chest. They are a true, honest and passionate bunch of people. I’m hoping that they have had their outburst, because all that matters is staying in the Premier League.
“If they can help us get over the line, maybe we can sort it out in the summer.”