Monday 5 December 2016

West Ham say sorry and vow to ban fans who attacked Manchester United bus

Published 11/05/2016 | 09:21

The Manchester United team coach was attacked on arrival at Upton Park
The Manchester United team coach was attacked on arrival at Upton Park

West Ham's owners have apologised for the attack on Manchester United's team bus outside Upton Park and warned there will be consequences.

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Co-owner David Gold suggested it highlighted the importance of the club's move to the Olympic Stadium, while David Sullivan vowed the club would ban any identifiable perpetrators for life.

A section of fans attacked Manchester United's bus as it approached the ground before West Ham's 3-2 win on Tuesday evening, the last game to be played at Upton Park.

Bottles were also thrown at visiting goalkeeper David de Gea during the match.

When asked on Wednesday if the trouble highlighted the importance of West Ham imminent move to the London 2012 athletics stadium, Gold said: "I think it does, doesn't it?

"You can see sadly what happened was we had a situation of having probably 45,000 fans and the infrastructure can't cope with it."

Speaking at the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference, Gold said: "It was clear evidence of what we've been saying all along - to fans that are saying 'We want to stay at Upton Park, let's develop it, we're only moving for other reasons, not footballing reasons' - you can't develop West Ham any further.

"It is completely at its capacity, 35,000 is all that it can cope with, and you saw that. There was 45,000 fans there and they gridlocked the East End of London. I'm sure the (overcrowding) was a contributing factor (to the violent scenes).

"The new stadium has got five train stations. What we had was tens of thousands of fans in the streets: you can't have that. Modern stadiums have all got overspill areas. Upton Park doesn't."

As well as bottles being thrown at De Gea, a fan invaded the pitch to confront the Spaniard.

Three men were arrested during the game, including a 20-year-old on suspicion of affray and a 47-year-old and 18-year-old for pitch incursion.

The Football Association has contacted both clubs for their observations and liaised with police as part of the ongoing investigations.

While Gold apologised for the attack on United's bus, he appeared unaware of the trouble inside the ground.

"We're all very, very sorry for what happened," he said.

"If we could have done anything to avoid it then we would have done, but it is outside of our jurisdiction, these are fans outside of our responsibility and inside the ground everything was perfect.

"But it's not an issue for us, because that was outside the ground, our job is to deal with the issues inside, and of course we did.

"We had a fantastic evening, the fans were so absolutely exemplary (inside Upton Park), a great evening of football: it's not often we beat the mighty Manchester United."

West Ham recovered from trailing 2-1 to score twice in the final 15 minutes, securing a 3-2 victory to conclude 112 years at their popular stadium after their winning goal from Winston Reid.

"Obviously we're disappointed about the events outside of the stadium, but as for the success, the match was one of the best matches in the history of West Ham," added 79-year-old Gold. "Fans have been tweeting me about what a fantastic evening (it was).

"It's once in a lifetime, isn't it? It's once in 112 years that you leave a stadium, it's a very emotional time, and you had extra fans, they wanted to enjoy, touch and feel."

After bottles and other missiles were flung at United's late-arriving team bus, k ick-off was delayed by 45 minutes.

Sullivan had initially blamed the Red Devils for the delay to kick-off, with the Hammers co-chairman saying on Tuesday evening: "If you check the coach there won't be any damage to it."

Those comments were contrary to the images of smashed windows and led Sullivan to release a statement on Wednesday in which he reiterated West Ham's vow to hand down life bans to the culprits.

"If we were to have scripted how our final game at the Boleyn would have played out, it wouldn't have been much different to last night's match," the joint-chairman said.

He added: "Sadly, the actions of very small minority of people outside the ground prior to kick-off risks overshadowing those celebrations.

"I want to be clear - their behaviour was completely unacceptable and does not represent our club or our values.

"When I was asked about the incident prior to yesterday's game, I was unaware of the damage that had occurred to the Manchester United team bus.

"I want to apologise to Manchester United for that damage and assure them that we will be doing all we can to track down those responsible and ban them for life.

"I have already tasked my senior team to work with the police to identify them as their behaviour belongs in the past and not in a future that promises so much for our great club."

Press Association

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