Football

West Ham might have to play in empty stadium after fan trouble

West Ham United are facing a Football Association probe after furious fans ran riot during shameful scenes at the London Stadium on Saturday, with the troubled club's owners David Gold and David Sullivan forced to flee their seats.

Several West Ham supporters invaded the pitch during their 3-0 English Premier League loss to Burnley, while hundreds of fans gathered beneath the directors' box to protest against Gold and Sullivan.

Fans made throat-slitting gestures while missiles were seen to be thrown in the direction of the executive seats amid chants of "sack the board" and "you killed our club".

On the pitch, the toxic atmosphere boiled over after West Ham captain Mark Noble grappled one fan to the floor and teammate James Collins marched two others away.

Burnley's coaching staff let children shelter in their dugout to avoid being caught in the chaos that left police investigating two allegations of assault.

West Ham said an emergency meeting had been called with all London Stadium stakeholders, which includes Gold and Sullivan, whose decision to uproot the club from Upton Park to their new ground in Stratford has caused resentment.

The FA is also set to launch a probe, with a spokesman saying: "The FA strongly condemns the crowd disturbances seen today at West Ham United versus Burnley and will be seeking observations from West Ham, as well as awaiting the match referee's report."

The east London club, who are just three points above the relegation zone, could be hit with a heavy fine or even forced to play matches behind closed doors as punishment for the disturbances.

In their own statement, the EPL said: "It is essential that everybody who plays or attends a Premier League football match can do so safely.

"There is no place at any level of the game for what happened at the London Stadium.

"While the official investigation of the incidents will be carried out by the Football Association, we will be asking our own questions of West Ham United about what happened this afternoon, especially to ensure similar events never reoccur."

West Ham manager David Moyes admitted he understood why tempers had frayed, but the Scot condemned the ugly scenes.

"As a supporter you can't cross the line. You can't come on the pitch. That's the rule," he said.

Noble's ascent from boyhood West Ham fan to key player for the club had made him a favourite of the Hammers support. But even the east London-born star admitted the situation was out of control.

He said: "It's been like this for the past two seasons, since we moved to this stadium. Every time we lose, we and the board get a lot of stick. It seemed today that the fans had had enough."

- AFP

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