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08 June 2009

Poor stewards at Wembley put fans’ safety in jeopardy

The most exciting moment in England’s game against Kazakhstan last Saturday might well have been when an over-excited local rushed onto the pitch in the closing moments of the game. After a short, zigzagged burst for freedom, he was brought down with a thump by three rather large men in full camouflage army gear. He was dragged off and probably hasn’t been seen since.

We’ve seen similar incidences at Stamford Bridge (and other grounds around the country) in the stands. Many times over the years away supporters who have parked themselves in amongst Chelsea supporters have cheered away goals, only to find themselves escorted out of the stadium by stewards faster than you could say ‘I say, that was a bit of a foolish move old chap’.

3B46E391-D324-F291-A07B2016A59A86B5Now of course the Stamford Bridge stewards aren’t dressed in fatigues or brandishing firearms (more typically they hang around looking sheepish in luminous vests) but, like their Kazakh counterparts, they seem to know how to deal with fans that step out of line. In the case of overzealous supporters sitting in the wrong places, these stewards act in the interests of everybody’s safety.

Watching the man getting walked off the pitch via military escort on Saturday, I cast my mind back to Wembley and 25 seconds into last weekend’s FA Cup final, when Saha’s goal sent small pockets of Everton fans sitting misguidedly in the Chelsea end into raptures. Clearly any plan to keep quiet had gone out the window half an hour before as these idiots downed their seventh pint of the afternoon before making a quick dash to be in their seats in time for Abide With Me.

IMG_4834Amidst the quiet as we reeled from conceding so early, we all looked round expecting these fans to be shunted out the ground in the normal fashion. But not one steward moved. A minute later – literally a minute – still no-one had moved. One minute later, tens of Chelsea fans – now obviously having had the time to feel affronted – made their way over to these fans to make their feelings known. Punches were thrown, blood spilt and kids were crying before finally the stewards got involved.

Not being a ground that exclusively hosts one sport or team, I assume the training and job spec for stewards at Wembley are very different from what the stewards and Stamford Bridge experience. But safety of both sets of fans (don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the stupidity of sitting in the wrong end or indeed violence against those people) is paramount and the security staff should act more decisively. The FA – sort it out next year, please.


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