26 July 2008

West Ham vs. Columbus Crew: the Fight and Reflections on Hooliganism

As we close out the soccer week in America, I’ve got to reflect on the MLS All Star game and events that led up to it. I’ve always been a critic of the MLS all star game – more the format really than the match itself. In fact, if America insists on a All Star game, I suggested in an earlier post that we look to Australia’s State of Origin rugby league match up and emulate their format for our match. At any rate, this week’s match proved quite entertaining…but it was an event a few days ahead of that match which deserves some review.

On July 20th, the Columbus Crew met up with West Ham United for a “friendly” and somewhere along the way, about 100 Crew fans thought it might be clever to get in to a brawl with about 20 West Ham supporters.

There are many many books and studies about Hooliganism out there folks and I’d like to recommend that we all read up on a couple. As football continues to rise in popularity in the US, we as American fans need to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

One of the great consolation prizes that we have in America is that, because our professional football is still so young, we can hopefully mature without going through that particular growing pain which has caused so much violence and destruction for football across the world.

Come on fellas, we can do better than that.



Anonymous said...

Completely untrue.

100 Crew fans did no such thing, and if you did even a tiny amount of digging before setting off on your little self-righteous lecture, you'd know better.

The Crew fans were where they always are, in the Northeast corner. 3 or 4 very drunk West Ham fans walked the length of the stadium from the south end where the WH fan seats were, descended 15 rows down a flight of stairs and made it ten rows into the Crew section before anyone said boo to them.

It was only after one of them threw beer on a female fan that some Crew fans moved across the aisle to block their path. They touched no one.

At that point, stadium security intervened.

Look at the picture you yourself posted. Did you? Are you blind?

What the picture shows is stadium security (yellow and blue shirts saying CSC) wrestling a West Ham fan back up the stairs the way they came. Note what the Crew fans are doing: nothing. Just watching as security removes the drunks who came looking for a fight.

Your characterization of "100 Crew fans thought i would be a good idea to get into a brawl" is, well, a complete and total fabrication.

I'd call it a lie, but I don't think you bothered to look into it enough that you had any idea what you were talking about in the first place.

This whole thing was nothing but a very few drunken British guys who went looking for a fight and stadium security dealing with it. Period.

Gruffgoat said...

I was not at the match, so my characterization is based on reports that I read, such as the Fox summary which said, "Crew supporters began directing chants toward the rival fans, and fights quickly broke out between more than 100 Crew fans and at least 30 West Ham fans. Columbus police officers and Crew Stadium security staff eventually separated the groups."

I'm sorry you thought my "lecture" to be self-righteous, but my point is that fighting does not need to become a part of football in America as it has been in so many other countries.

I appreciate your comments and based on your account, it sounds like the event was much ado about nothing - in which case I'll issue a follow up; however my opinion on hooliganism of course is unchanged.

Anonymous said...

I would then respectfully direct you to a couple of sources, particularly the coverage of Columbus Dispatch reporter Shawn Mitchell.

I would also direct you to the four clips of video which are now up in YouTube. I'm sure you'd rather see for yourself than take anyone else's word for it.

Unfortunately, the video starts just about wen the picture above was taken, ie. as security was getting the WH guys out of the Crew section.

Your point about hooliganism coming to the US is actually well taken, and responsible supporter group leaders around MLS are working overtime to try and weed out guys whose aim is to get drunk and start a fight.

The Sons of Ben, the supporters group for the Philly team which won't even start play until 2010, has 2000+ members and is already working on self policing methods and conflict resolution techniques.

If you are genuinely interested, I will tell you this: in the instance you reference, the Crew blew it.

They should have taken notice that, with an England-based group in the building, and one with a reputation for violence in England, they needed to take precautions to keep the two groups apart.

They did nothing of the kind, and only reacted when it was far too late.

Then, incredibly, after they got everyone calmed down and back in their own sections, they blew it a second time by not having the groups use separate gates out.

Unbelieveably, they sent both groups down separate staircases but ignored the fact that they both emptied out into the exact same spot on the lower concourse.

They literally put the two groups together again, and a bunch of 20-25 year olds with a bunch of beer under their belts can get pretty lippy and they had to break some stuff up once again. Mostly shoving and yelling.

So basically, this was completely unnecessary, and happened because stadium security fell down on the job.

If you have any interest, I will make you this offer: come to Columbus for a game, I will buy you dinner and introduce you to the guys who head up the Crew suporters groups, who are as nice a bunch of guys as you'll ever meet. I'll get you a ticket - no charge - andyou can sit in the supporters section and get a real feel for what it's really about.