West Ham United player 'racially abused' during party brawl
David Sullivan, West Ham's co-owner. says one of the club's players was racially abused by a supporter at last night's fractious end-of-season party.
Police were called to the Grosvenor House Hotel in Central London after West Ham supporters, who paid to attend the dinner, fought with security staff.
The violence was sparked when Demba Ba, the striker, reportedly refused to sign autographs when asked by supporters. Reports claimed Ba told fans he was "too tired". This prompted an angry reaction, with reports claiming tables were overturned, a vase smashed and chairs thrown.
And Sullivan told Sky Sports News: "A player was racially abused by the same drunken supporter, which is not acceptable. Sadly one drunken supporter let the club down." Sullivan did not confirm the identity of the player he claims was abused, but it is believed to be Ba, the French-born Senegal international.
Fighting broke out when security staff attempted to control the situation. It was claimed a group of fans duly ran out of the hotel, pursued by security guards, while the event’s MC, the television presenter Ben Shephard, pleaded with guests to “sit on their chairs, not throw them”.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "We were called at 9.15pm to reports of a disturbance at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. Officers attended. There were no offences alleged and no arrests."
The disruption of the event came just 24 hours after West Ham’s relegation to the Championship was confirmed by their dramatic 3-2 defeat at Wigan and the sacking of manager Avram Grant.
The Sun quoted an eyewitness, who said: "The players had just eaten their first course and there was a little interval.
"One fan walked past Demba Ba and said: 'Can I have your autograph?' Ba turned round and said 'I'm too tired.' That triggered the mayhem. The fan went berserk, shouting and screaming at Ba, hurling all sorts of racist insults at him – and Ba looked like he was about to lash out when Danny Gabbidon separated them."
The event had been attended by 800 people, including the club's players and staff, with fans paying more than £250 per head for tickets.
Reports claimed the Senegal striker - whose goals had put the Irons 2-0 ahead at DW Stadium before their dramatic collapse - said he was "too tired" when asked for his autograph by a supporter, with an angry exchange following before tables were overturned.
However, Ba, signed from Hoffenheim during the January transfer window, today rejected those suggestions.
"I did sign the autograph. I never refuse to sign autograph to the fans," the 25-year-old posted on his Twitter account.
"He came to me saying he is tired to watch us play and was looking for confrontation."
Demolition contractor Squibb Group, whose family owners are life-long West Ham fans, had a table near the disturbance.
A spokesman for the company told the Construction Enquirer: "While an incident on a nearby table did result in one of the chairs at the Squibb Group table being knocked over, Squibb Group employees, representatives and guests were not involved in the incident.
"In fact, to apologise for the disturbance caused to the Squibb Group table, the hotel did not charge the Squibb Group for its drinks."