West Ham United threw itself a little end-of-season awards banquet on Monday night in London (to celebrate, ostensibly, West Ham's relegation after finishing last in the Premier League). Some of the team's fans attended the banquet, which turned out to be a very bad idea indeed:
West Ham's calamitous season endured another dose of ignominy last night after police were called to investigate disturbances that erupted after players were confronted by supporters at the club's end-of-season awards dinner at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.
Trouble apparently flared once the club's co-owner David Gold had delivered a speech in which he had pledged the team's stay in the Championship would be brief after relegation was confirmed at Wigan Athletic on Sunday.
Witnesses claimed supporters then reacted badly after the striker Demba Ba allegedly refused to sign an autograph, with other players, including Manuel da Costa, confronted in the ensuing mêlée.
Plates and glasses were apparently broken in the brief fracas that followed, with a group of supporters running from the function suite out of the hotel, pursued by security staff.
(One ill-tempered fan allegedly made racist remarks to Demba Ba.)
When I was studying abroad in Ireland, I once met an American who developed a strange affinity for West Ham football. He didn't know much about soccer. He'd never played. He was a cultural tourist when it came to the sport. What made him embrace West Ham was a mystery. But he watched games whenever he could, memorized the roster and became, for all intents and purposes, a devout fan. One day, he decided to go to a West Ham match and flew to England. He returned a few days later, shaken, with a front-lines account of being caught in the middle of a dust-up between West Ham hooligans and rival supporters. As he described it, knives were produced and a spot of carving took place. He barely escaped without getting slashed, and I'm not sure his fandom survived the experience. By comparison, a few broken plates and glasses in the Grosvenor House Hotel feels altogether peaceable.
Police called as trouble flares at West Ham United dinner [The Guardian]