FA launches inquiry into violence at West Ham
LONDON (Reuters) - England's Football Association has announced an inquiry into the violence that marred Wednesday night's League Cup tie between West Ham United and Chelsea at London Stadium.
In scenes that were a throwback to the hooliganism that blighted English football at the end of the last century, bottles and coins were thrown, seats ripped up and stewards struggled to control rival fans seeking to confront each other.
There was also violence outside the stadium, the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympics, where riot police intervened as supporters clashed on their way back to the London Underground.
On Thursday the FA confirmed to Reuters that it had launched an investigation and will assess the evidence after talking to both clubs.
A statement from EFL, the competition's organisers, said: "The EFL condemns the behaviour of the small minority of fans involved in the disturbing and unwelcome incidents."
Police said seven arrests were made. Both West Ham and Chelsea said they would issue life bans to any identified trouble-makers.
The main trouble flared towards the end of the game, which West Ham won 2-1, as stewards struggled to contain rival fans gathered in the gangways. A series of scuffles broke out and more missiles were hurled.
The violence was centred in the lower tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking stand, where rival supporters were separated by gangways, manned by stewards.
The clashes sparked a debate about whether the stadium, which was converted to a football ground after the Olympics, is fit for purpose.
Former West Ham striker Tony Gale, who was at the game, said the number of gangways made it difficult to introduce proper segregation.
"It was clear to me there were lots of coins and seats being thrown. While segregation was there, the fans were very close to each other. The ground is making it easier for those who want to make trouble to do so.
"We need more police, more segregation and life bans for anyone caught causing trouble."
Wednesday's game had been identified as a potential flashpoint and the first big night test for West Ham, who moved from their traditional home at the Boleyn Ground into their new stadium at the start of the season.
Outbreaks of trouble have already been recorded at West Ham's Premier League games against Watford, Sunderland and Middlesbrough this season, and fears have been raised of a repeat with 5,000 Chelsea supporters travelling to the game between traditional rivals from east and west London.
Special security measures had been put in place, including an alcohol ban and a reduction in the number of tickets on sale. More than 1,000 stewards were deployed in and around the ground, which also had "a robust presence" of police officers.
London Stadium 185, the company which is in charge of security at the ground, said the number of stewards was double the number normally deployed for Premier League games, adding that fans were segregated in accordance with official guidance.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Nick Mulvenney)