An Open Letter to Fulham FC

Stevenage Road, 10 minutes after the game had started. Exif data here.

I’ve been going to football matches for over 20 years, and have never experienced organisation as bad as Fulham’s for last night’s friendly game between Ghana and Brazil.

I turned up 25 minutes before the game to collect my tickets, having booked over the phone during the day. When I arrived, there were 2-3,000 fans on Stevenage Road bottlenecking towards two burger van-size portakabins distributing pre-purchased tickets. Two. I joined the crowd, stupidly. At one stage I was lifted off my feet by the crush, and couldn’t move my arms or legs. With no queuing system whatsoever, people were surging back and forth to reach the front of the crush, where a woefully small number of security guards were trying to control the mess. When I got to the front, the staff in the portakabins were desperately flicking through huge bundles of alphabetised envelopes, and had even resorted to sending bundles of tickets out into the crowd, including, I learned, mine. Hopeless.

I gave up and squeezed out. There were kids and older fans in there, clearly quite distressed. I’d be amazed if no-one was hurt. The police arrived belatedly, and managed to form a police line (on horses) at the eastern end of the road, which was breached within minutes. I saw a handful of officers aiming towards the throng, managing to convince people to leave the scene. My friends and I left, as did thousands of others.

When a club increases their non-season ticket allocation for a game, there is often a bit of a queue outside the ground. When an entire game is a non-season ticket event, like this one, the crowds outside the stadium will inevitably increase by a significant magnitude. There is no way Fulham couldn’t have seen this coming.

With the Hillsborough papers due for release any time now, 22 years after the event, and with London still reeling from some of the most disturbing public disorder in decades, I find it astonishing that cockups like this can still happen. Why was Craven Cottage chosen to host an international friendly between two hugely popular international teams in the first place? Why were there not more places to pick up pre-purchased tickets? Why were there so few stewards and police on Stevenage Road?

Fulham Football Club put my safety, and the safety of thousands of other fans, at risk. I’d like an apology, and an explanation.

About these ads

12 responses to “An Open Letter to Fulham FC

  1. I had the same problem, it took best part of an hour to get to the ticket office collection point then we were told to go the box office to collect tickets, we missed the whole of the first half.

  2. Hillsborough was 22 years ago.

  3. I’m Amanda Jacks and work for the Football Supporters’ Federation as a case worker. I am very keen to hear directly from anybody caught up in this and will push for full answers as to what went wrong. The more individual accounts we receive, the better, and all treated in confidence. Please email me at amanda.jacks@fsf.org.uk

  4. We had a pretty shocking time of it as well;

    http://headersandvolleys.co.uk/2011/09/06/chaos-at-the-cottage/

    Great work by Benji and everyone else involved in getting the real story told – hopefully we’ll get some proper answers rather than the tosh Fulham are spouting on the Evening Standard;

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-sport/football/article-23984289-fulham-tell-crushed-fans-ticket-chaos-not-our-fault.do

  5. Pingback: The sound of the crowd: Fulham is wrong about the crush at Brazil v Ghana | A Fragment, Unidentified.

  6. I was there with my young nephew. We arrived about 40 minutes before the start of the game to pick up tickets. I saw no stewards marshalling the swarm attempting to get to the two tiny boxes distributing the tickets. No police either. The first time we tried to get near my nephew was getting crushed and quite scared and we had to leave the sprawl. People ahead of us had already given up. Several times I went to Fulham stewards to seek help, pointing out that our seat details were on the internet printout, but they insisted we had to line up to get the tickets. I kept telling them someone was going to get hurt – or worse. They didn’t care and told me 2,000 people decided to come late for tickets, so this is what happens. I pointed out to them that if it takes 30 seconds per ticket distribution, two people will need to spend nearly five hours to distribute the tickets – that there was no way this was ever going to work.

    Twice more I tried to get into the swarm, leaving my nephew to one side. Then the police moved in and started shouting “move back” but to where? They then said we could get in on our print outs, but that turned out to be a ruse because by the time we got to our gate the stewards refused to let us in, saying it was more than their job was worth.

    We gave up and went home. My nephew was bitterly disappointed, it would have been his first international. He was very shaken up by the whole thing, as was I. It was a total fiasco. Fulham FC should be ashamed, as should the local police, and not allowed to host such games in the future.

  7. I was also involved in the troubles at Craven Cottage on monday night!
    My friend & I arrived at the ground to collect our tickets, 35 minutes before kick off.
    There were no queues, no organisation, it was a massive pile in, completely reckless with hundreds of people crammed into a small space.
    People were pushing from the sides & the back of the crowd, there was no room to get in & no room to get out (if you had already collected your tickets or were simply too frightened to stick around).
    There was total confusion, some people found it amusing, others were in despair, kids crying, a woman near me collasped and had to be lifted up by 3 guys.
    People were shouting, “Stop pushing, stop pushing, we cannot move”.
    At times it was hard to properly breath, let alone stand your ground. I had to tip toe just to create a little room for myself.
    Somehow, my friend managed to squeeze to the ticket window, I was a few feet behind him & I was just able to reach over to hand him my debit card so he could collect our tickets. Then it took me a further 15 minutes to escape the madness.
    As I was trying to leave, the police finally turnt up, 50 minutes way too late!
    Their initial response was too push into the front of the crowd, near the ticket huts, but as there was no room, this created even more of a cruching effect.
    Eventually they realised that they needed to be at the sides & back of the crowd, to stop people from pushing forward and force them to move back.

    I cannot stress to you all how bad this incident was. It is by luck and luck only, that someone wasn’t severely injured or killed.
    I’m 32 years old and haven’t lived a sheltered life. I’m not a drama queen or someone who is looking to make a name for himself.
    This was an absolute disgrace and never have I been in a position where I feared so much for mine or other peoples safety!
    The disorganisation and lack of any ability to resond to the seriousness of the situation was an absolute disgrace & those responsible at Fulham FC & the authorities, including the police, must be held to account.

    By the time me and my friend reached our seats, the match was 34 minutes old. I really didn’t care. I tried to enjoy the remainder of the game but I was bloody angry and could not relax.
    After the match, my friend & I went to a pub where I downed 2 double whiskeys to calm myself.
    I am fuming, I will not forget what happened on monday night and I will not allow it to be dismissed as a minor incident.
    I have already contacted Fulham FC, the English FA, football supporter groups and I will be contacting the FA’s of Brazil & Ghana as well as FIFA. UEFA, the media and anyone who will listen.
    This was an absolute disgrace and Craven Cottage should never host a major event, such as a Brazil match, ever again.

  8. Pingback: Fans to blame for crush before Ghana v Brazil friendly, insist Fulham « Ghanaian Scoop

  9. Pingback: Fans to blame for crush before Ghana v Brazil friendly, insist Fulham | Brazil Tribune

  10. Hi Benji,
    Thanks for the blog. I have been to Fulham’s Europa league games at Craven Cottage this season. My experience is that a shambles like the one you experienced was going to happen sooner or later. The attendences at the Europa league games i attended were around 15,000 with, i believe, season ticket holders, being able to attend though in the earlier games they had to pick up (or be mailed) a ticket from the club. So considerably less risk of pre-game conjestion/chaos. For 3 of the 4 games i received a ticket through the post so no problem there except that on at least a couple of occasions i had to hang around ages on Stevenage Road waiting for the gates to open. For the FC Dnipro game supporters waiting outside in the rain were told that the gates would open 45 minutes before kick-off. I expressed my displeasure at this to one of the stewards, citing safety issues and the fact i’d been there from 5:30 p.m. waiting for the gates to open (the game started at 7:30 p.m.). The smiling steward told me that it was on UEFA’s instructions so more tickets could be sold. Total nonsense! What is the relationship between opening the gates and the amount of tickets sold. Actually the gates opened just over an hour before the game but Stevenage Road was pretty jam packed by then.

    For the RNK Split game i had to pick a ticket up and arrived late-ish (Megabus playing loose and fast with their timetable). I found poorly organised ticket distribution made more difficult by all the groups of fulham supporters waiting for their mates outside. I was lucky in getting to the front of the queue pretty quickly, recognising that most in the ‘queue’ were not waiting for tickets but just swanning around. Still amazed that when i picked up my ticket and got to my seat just in time for kick-off that there were thousands still outside not really that interested in seeing the start of the game.

    Extrapolate these experiences to a 25,000 crowd and it seems fairly logical to me, at least, that the chaos of monday would happen. Unfortunate that it never occured to any of Fulham FC’s staff. Maybe they’ve never had to pick up a ticket or been to a game of football.
    all the best,
    Richard Jones

  11. you might be interested in this article in the New Yorker on the dynamic of crowds http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/07/110207fa_fact_seabrook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s