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Case Studies

Unhappy Hammers

If your football team was playing in the Premier League and it had just moved from its old ground to a stadium that had just hosted an Olympics, you might think people were happy. But not in English football. Mark Rowe writes.

What could possibly have gone wrong? West Ham Football Club moved for the 2016-17 season from Upton Park (pictured) a couple of miles to the west, to the main stadium that saw the 2012 Olympics, run by an operating company called London Stadium 185, and with its facilities staff contracted out to the multi-national Vinci. The Hammers had a ready-made new home (with panoramic, Panomera cameras from Dallmeier, also in use at other venues, such as Everton FC) and the prospect of making much more money from the 60,000 seats.

After a successful 2015-16 on the field, West Ham started the 2016-17 poorly, knocked out of the Europa League qualifiers and losing at home. Would more goals and wins to cheer on the pitch have made fans less angry about their new unfamiliar home – built for watching athletics and not football?

We’ll never know, nor can we say what were the motives for the vandalism against the Manchester United FC visiting coach, before the last home game at Upton Park in May 2016, as featured in the June 2016 print issue of Professional Security magazine.

By Wednesday evening, October 26, the first West Ham United home match against a rival London club – Chelsea, in an EFL Cup tie – the authorities had come up with time-consuming security that prompted an appeal to home and away supporters to arrive early. Absurdly, the stadium made the point that there had been zero arrests inside thus far in the season – yet the Metropolitan Police had not been inside. From the Chelsea match onwards, what police called ‘a tactical solution’ would allow safe deployment of officers into the stadium, if required; the problem having been lack of Airwave radio coverage before installation due in February 2017.

West Ham, like many Premier League clubs, for years has been largely policing itself; the club pointed out that only four games at Upton Park last season had a police presence inside the ground. The club said that London Stadium 185 had ‘significantly increased stewarding numbers’ and that stewards held, or were working towards an NVQ level two qualification in spectator safety. The ‘stewarding response’ officers that do more security-style work when fans turn aggressive hold SIA licences.

For the Chelsea match inside the stadium and outside the away turnstile was what the operators termed ‘appropriate segregation lines’.

Crazy on the roof

He was sitting on the rim of the London Stadium roof in the dark, his shoes (that he was advertising) hanging over. “This is an absolutely crazy mission, as you can see; it’s pretty relaxed in here,” said the narrator. He was part of Night Scape, whose eight-minute footage of him and two companions entering the stadium (wearing hoods, though elsewhere in the video they made no effort to hide their identity) and climbing on top has had more than three million views on Youtube. While embarrassing to the stadium – the three youths enjoyed running across the grass, and sitting on the luxury seats pitchside sat on by West Ham manager Slaven Bilic and fellow coaches – it’s hardly the only site to suffer from young ‘free runners’ and ‘urban explorers’. Indeed, other Stratford high buildings were climbed over in the same video.


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