West Ham violence could damage safe standing campaign: Wenger

London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger fears the crowd trouble that marred West Ham United’s League Cup victory over Chelsea and left 200 fans facing banning orders could damage the campaign for safe standing areas in stadiums.

Rival fans threw coins, seats and bottles inside West Ham’s London Stadium on Wednesday and were involved in clashes in the streets around the east London ground.

Seven arrests were made and West Ham have pledged to hand out up to 200 banning orders after scanning video footage of violent scenes that dragged football back to the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s when hooligans ran amok in England.

Wenger doesn’t believe England will see a resurgence in hooliganism, but he is concerned the ugly clashes might ruin the chances of clubs introducing safe standing areas in stadiums.

Terracing was banned in England following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

Scottish Premiership club Celtic installed 2,900 seats that can be made into standing sections before the start of this season and English Championship club Brighton and Hove Albion are considering a similar scheme.

“I’m surprised even more than disappointed, because West Ham is usually a very strong fan base,” Wenger said on Friday.

“Personally I am in favour of the resurgence of standing opportunities behind the goals. I feel the closer you are to the positions of the players, the more passionate you are about it.

“As well because it would allow lower prices because you could get more spectators inside the stadiums, and maybe a more passionate atmosphere.

“It (the violence) gives an argument to people who are against it. 

“It is not a very good advert to come back to standing opportunities. Hopefully West Ham will get rid of the problem very quickly.

“Basically I don’t believe there is a problem with hooliganism in England. You cannot say that one minor incident — I heard about 200 people — is a general problem in the country.”

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was keen to turn his focus to this weekend’s Premier League fixture against Everton, but he conceded the violence had left a scar.

“It does hurt, of course it does. The club didn’t deserve it, the players don’t deserve it definitely, the fans didn’t deserve it — the majority of them of course. The big majority, the vast majority,” Bilic said.

“I have said enough, I want to talk about the game on Sunday. I have a big game. I said what I said and that’s it. I want to talk about football and the game.

“There is no point talking about it because I would only repeat what I said. I am a football manager, not a police officer or whatever, so that is it basically.”

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew, who spent three years in charge at West Ham, condemned the mindless thugs who ruined his old club’s reputation in the latest outbreak of violence since the Hammers left Upton Park for the London Stadium in the close-season.

“They are scenes that you don’t want to see,” he said. “The mindless thugs that spoiled that game are spoiling it for everybody over there, because they’re all trying to settle into a new stadium.”

“I think West Ham’s move this morning (the banning orders) was probably the right thing. Get rid of these people and let the genuine West Ham fans enjoy the game.”

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