West Ham has suggested the issue of supporters standing in front of their seats at the Olympic Stadium from next season is ‘a stewarding matter’ and not one for the club to answer.
In August this year, stewarding for West Ham matches will transfer to Stadium operator London Stadium 185, a subsidiary of French company Vinci Stadiums.
Along with OCS, London Stadium 185 have been busy recruiting stewards for Olympic Stadium events including West Ham games and many of the current West Ham stewards are known to have signed up.
The question was asked at the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board on Tuesday evening and was given a “stewarding issue” answer.
The issue of standing at the Olympic Stadium is likely to be a thorny issue. Hammers supporters in the Bobby Moore Lower have stood in front of their seats since the stand was build in 1993 and fans in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Stand, together with ‘Chav Corner’ and parts of the East End have also stood up during games for many, many years.
Ever since the introduction of all-seater stadia, many supporters have continued to stand in front of their seats around the country, often for the duration of the game and West Ham have been no different. It is widely believed that this practice is illegal but this is not the case. The law only provides that these clubs should provide seats for all supporters, not that supporters must sit on them.
Standing in seated areas, is, however, contrary to ground regulations. The Premier League regulations state: ‘Nobody may stand in any seating area whilst play is in progress. Persistent standing in seated areas whilst play is in progress is strictly forbidden and may result in ejection from the ground’.
Safe standing just won’t happen at the Olympic Stadium in the foreseeable future. It would require a rule change from the Premier League and even then the tax payer would be unlikely to fund further changes to the stadium, which has already cost £272m to modify.
In 2014 West Ham chairman, David Gold called standing at football unsafe and unsocial in an interview with Cass Pennant. “It is interesting that for many years we have had unsafe standing, I don’t think there is a ground in the country that are all seater stadium that don’t have their fans in some area of the ground standing. Now that standing is both unsafe and unsocial. In other words unsocial from the point that if you were to bring a child to that match and that child is suddenly confronted with rows and rows of people in front of him, then he or she is not going to be able to see the match”