Hammersmith & Fulham Council has identified six safety steps to build into Fulham’s matchday planning to prevent a repeat of the problems which occurred at September’s Brazil v Ghana friendly.
The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) compiled fans’ experiences in the aftermath of the incident which the council said proved extremely useful and consistent with the complaints they received.
Dozens of supporters contacted the FSF saying they had became enveloped in a worrying crush outside Craven Cottage prior to the international friendly on Monday 5th September. Independently of one another fan after fan told the FSF poor organisation had allowed a scrum of thousands of supporters to develop. Many said they were genuinely fearful for their own safety.
Fans in attendance believed the root cause of the problem was an inadequate number of stewards and ticket office staff to deal with the large numbers of fans picking up prepaid match tickets. The scene described by supporters was one of “absolute pandemonium and chaos” with fans especially critical of Fulham’s planning and organisation.
Fulham denied these reports were accurate and placed the blame at the door of fans. Fulham’s head of communications, Sarah Brookes, told the Guardian: “The fundamental problem was that people didn't want to go into the ground when they arrived at the Cottage. They wanted to stay and party in the streets and that caused congestion, which meant that some people had difficulty picking up their tickets. We had loudhailers appealing for people to go into the ground but they refused.”
That did not tally with the supporter statements compiled by the FSF, online reports from blogs such as Headers & Volleys, or with one respected national journalist in attendance who verified the FSF’s initial report. The fans’ testimonies were passed on to Hammersmith & Fulham Council to support the authority’s investigation which was launched in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
A number of new safety steps were then identified after consultation between club and council. The implementation of these measures will be seen by many of the original complainants as vindication of their initial fears. Those steps are:
- Limited ticket collections of 800 for day and 600 for evening fixtures.
- Improved signage and implementation of “home language” PA announcements for visiting international fans.
- Provision of additional collection facilities, prevention of queue busting, improved internal communications on exceptional ticket collection issues with safety team.
- The review of contingency plans for delaying kick-offs.
- Improvement to existing contingency plans.
- Adoption of UEFA pre-match meeting model for international matches.
Cllr Greg Smith, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s cabinet member for residents’ services, said: “Following issues with congestion around Craven Cottage on the night of the Brazil v Ghana match and reports that we received from fans and the FSF an investigation was instigated by the council.
“Fulham Football Club cooperated fully with our investigation and they have identified a number of measures to prevent a similar recurrence. These have now been built into Fulham’s matchday operations and we consider the matter closed.”
The FA also said that, following Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council’s review, it was satisfied that Fulham had learned lessons from the evening’s events. The FA added this would help the Cottagers better manage similar events in future.
The FSF's Amanda Jacks said: “The Football Supporters’ Federation would like to thank Hammersmith & Fulham Council for taking supporters’ concerns seriously – the FSF’s prime concern was always for the safety of our fellow fans and members. The FA also deserves credit for its open and inclusive approach.
“Lastly the FSF would like to say thank you to each and every supporter who contacted us to share their experiences. The FSF is not all-seeing and all-hearing, we can only report what our fellow fans and members tell us. On this occasion we believe those fans have helped improve matchday arrangements at Craven Cottage for the better.”
Many thanks to Susan Ferguson for the image used in this news item.
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