Monthly Archives: September 2011

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.