A man was stabbed during violent clashes between hundreds of rival football supporters last night as West Ham played Millwall in East London.
Riot police and mounted officers were called in to try to restore order as fans taunted one another and threw bottles and bricks. Fights also broke out within the ground as news of rioting filtered inside.
The Metropolitan Police said that disorder outside the ground, where West Ham beat their rivals 3-1 after extra time, was caused by troublemakers who had turned up despite not having tickets.
Players were forced off the pitch when about 50 fans broke through police cordons around the stands as West Ham took the lead in extra time. Hundreds more ran on to the pitch after the final whistle. Police closed several roads around the ground after the match and 200 officers in riot gear patrolled the route to the Underground station, backed by 20 mounted officers. Officers made two arrests, one for disorder and the second for breach of a banning order.
This is not the first time that there have been serious crowd control problems involving Millwall. I recall they had a reputation for violence some years ago that seemed to have been eradicated by a series of measures taken by the club.
For the sake of British football, let us hope that last night was a one off incident which doesn't provoke a rash of problems at grounds in the future.
I have had this comment which explains the situation that occurred last night very well.
Hi Keith. I think you are right, this is a very ugly side of football in my opinion too. It's a shame that it happened, but perhaps more importantly, it's a shame that it happened on such a large scale so as to be put into the public eye.
Although you mention Millwall (with their hooligans known as the 'Bushwackers'), the West Ham 'firm' were once the most feared and respected in the country, known as the 'ICF'. West Ham had a serious reputation back in the '80s and I don't think the trouble can be solely blamed on Millwall if these two clubs ever play. Of course, I wasn't there, so can't tell you exactly what happened, but both clubs are historically as bad as each other.
There were two issues that contributed to the disorder last night, in my opinion. Firstly, the game was a night game, which allowed more time in the pubs for the fans. I would guess that some of them would have taken the day off work so would have been in the pub by 11.00am or 12.00pm. Usually, games like this, or other local 'derbies' if played on a weekend, are scheduled for 12.30pm kick offs, or even, in the case of Swansea and Cardiff in recent years 11.30am - yes, a morning game!!
Secondly, the violence was perhaps also due to West Ham and Millwall being in different leagues. The last time they were in the same division was in 2003/04, when West Ham fans caused trouble at Millwall's ground, The New Den. Now that West Ham have gone up a league (into the Premiership) and Millwall down a league (into League 1), the chances that they now meet are few and far between. I'm not sure on my history too well prior to 2003/04, but I would hazard a guess that the 2003/04 season was more of a one-off and that the two teams have not played against each other very much in the last 15 years.
Consequently, the 'old heads' would have been out last night to settle a few scores, I would imagine. Either way, as you so rightly point out, it's a sad sight.
(having said that, this does still go on at games quite regularly nowadays, but not on such a large scale as previous decades due to CCTV and police helicopters deployed now. The 'meets' are now usually organised in advance, off the beaten track and on a much smaller scale, unless it's a big derby!)
Thank you Dave for your well informed comment.