Arsene Wenger fears the recent trouble at West Ham could influence the discussion over whether safe standing should be reintroduced at Premier League grounds.
Opposing fans clashed during the Hammers’ EFL Cup victory over Chelsea in midweek at the club’s new London Stadium, which has seen other minor incidents of violence since West Ham moved in at the start of the campaign.
The club have warned they will ban up to 200 supporters if they can identify those responsible for instigating trouble, though Gunners manager Wenger, the longest-serving boss in the country, does not fear football hooliganism is on the rise again.
However, he fears situations such as those seen in midweek could harm the prospect of safe standing being considered once more, with all-seated stadia having been commonplace since the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
Asked about the trouble which marred the all-London cup clash, Wenger said: “I’m surprised even more than disappointed, because West Ham is usually a very strong fan base.
“They are very motivated and as well we are not used, in England, to facing these kind of problems any more. Personally I am in favour of the resurgence of standing opportunities behind the goals.
“It is not a very good advert to come back to standing opportunities for people in the stands so I am surprised and hopefully West Ham will get rid of the problem very quickly.
“Basically I don’t believe there is a problem with hooliganism in England. You cannot say that one minor incident – I heard about 200 people – is a general problem in the country.”
Celtic have introduced safe standing at Celtic Park for a reported cost of £500,000 and have encountered no problems to date.
Wenger wants to see it brought in south of the border to help create a better atmosphere at Premier League games.
Setting a bad example
Asked whether the kind of scenes at West Ham damage the argument for safe standing, he replied: “Yes, of course.
“It gives an argument, especially to people who are against it. I feel the closer you are to the positions of the players, the more passionate you are about it.
“As well because it would allow lower prices because you could get more spectators inside the stadiums, and maybe a more passionate atmosphere.”
The focus will not be on the London Stadium this weekend as West Ham are visiting Everton, whose manager Ronald Koeman has welcomed suggestions those found guilty of inciting trouble are given life bans.
“It is not what we like and I think the club made the right decision,” the Dutchman said. “If you find the people who made those incidents, then keep them out of the stadiums.”
Crystal Palace counterpart Alan Pardew, who was in charge of West Ham between 2003 and 2006, concurred with Koeman.
“They are scenes you do not want to see,” he said.
“The West Ham fans are a fantastic set and the mindless thugs that spoilt that game are spoiling it for everyone over there because they are all trying to settle in to a new stadium.
“I think West Ham’s move this morning was probably the right thing – get rid of these people and let the genuine fans enjoy the game.”
Hull manager Mike Phelan’s playing career spanned from 1979 to 1995, during an era where outbreaks of hooliganism occurred more frequently across the country.
“Nobody wants to revert back to what we saw many, many years ago,” he said.
“Stadiums have improved, facilities have improved. It’s not really for me to comment about what goes on at other clubs but from a personal point of view we don’t want to see all this nonsense coming back.
“We know football can be tribal, we know it can be opinionated, but to resort to violence is the wrong way to go about it.”