West Ham hope to keep a lid on fan trouble

LONDON • West Ham's attempts to solve the crowd control problems that have ruined the club's move to the London Stadium will be closely scrutinised when Southampton visit today in the English Premier League.

The Hammers' switch from Upton Park to the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford has been beset by issues of fan safety and a series of ugly brawls that broke out in the recent defeat by Watford.

West Ham supporters were able to fight with their Watford counterparts due to the lack of segregation between the rival factions.

Making matters worse, some Hammers fans even came to blows with each other in disagreements over the local council policy of insisting supporters stay seated at all times - a rule that had been flouted in many sections.

Desperate to avoid any more embarrassment in what was supposed to be a new era of success on and off the pitch, West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan this week claimed they expect the issues "to be resolved in the coming weeks".

The club have already relocated 200 disgruntled fans, made an attempt to beef up segregation by cordoning off more seats and vowed to improve stewarding.

The crowd problems have overshadowed a miserable start on the field, as Slaven Bilic's side struggle to recapture the form that earned a seventh-place finish last term.

After five matches, the Hammers are in the danger zone, having lost their previous two league games 2-4 against both Watford and West Bromwich Albion.

Bilic is still searching for a winning formula after making 11 close-season signings and there was more bad news this week when one of the new recruits, French defender Arthur Masuaku, was ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury.

Despite a lengthy injury list, Bilic is adamant West Ham should still be able to thrive and he urged the fans to forget their complaints about the stadium and get behind the team. "I'm not looking for excuses. We have a good team and I expect us to do it on Sunday," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WEST HAM V SOUTHAMPTON
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline 'West Ham hope to keep a lid on fan trouble'. Print Edition | Subscribe