‘There needs to be more consistency with UEFA’s punishments’

The situation with West Ham fans being banned for the game with Rapid Vienna really was a farce. The fans found out a week or so before the kick off and this meant that plans had to be changed last minute. Supporters were also left out of pocket with some airlines refusing to compensate the flights that could not be used. 

The whole thing seems to be reactionary and really not very thought out. You could argue the decision was made politically, knowing the Covid-19 situation in Austria and that the country was potentially going into lockdown. Was this done in advance of this? Ultimately because of that imminent lockdown which turned into a full scale one; West Ham fans would not have been able to attend anyway.

A positive from this whole situation was that the ban of away fans didn’t carry over to the next game? Was this intentional? Who knows. The message that was put out originally was vague. It first implied that the ban was for a flare thrown onto the pitch. 

This was ridiculous because as you see in most European games, they use flares. There was a clip circulating of the Dortmund v Ajax game where there was a lot more pyrotechnics there then our one lame flare. This clearly was not the reason.  I have since been sent footage of the ‘real’ reason we received the ban and it is around the storming of a turnstile by ticketless fans. The scenes were very similar to the England v Italy game in the finals of the Euros. 

Sadly the actions of a minority of fans caused this ban to happen. It is worth noting that storming of turnstiles has happened recently at concerts too resulting in the death of a number of people in the USA. Belgium itself has obviously had bad experiences when it comes to the misdemeanours of English football fans on its soil with the horrific incident that unfolded at the Heysel disaster.

Whilst I am not excusing the behaviour of West Ham fans at the Genk game, it does seem that they were very quick to punish us whilst allowing clubs who have had similar troubles in Europe to get away with it. I understand why the punishments were handed out as a result of some of the West Ham fans actions but there are further steps that should be taken by football on the whole. 

The Genk stadium was half empty, where this happens and you can sell tickets to away fans, there should be provisions to enable this to be done safely which would help stop this behaviour. Secondly there really does need to be more consistency in the actions that are taken against clubs which seems to vary on the club, the country they are from and the difference of crime committed. The governing bodies of our games need to be more consistent in their approach to tackling things.

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