Ahead of the Swansea game, committee members Jim Dolan and Alastair Holmes were invited to meet with the club to discuss policing and stewarding of the upcoming Brighton game. Here’s Alastair’s views from the day:
We arrived at the club mid-morning to meet with Jake, the Supporters Services manager, who holds a regular briefing with the Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) before each game. After running through a few admin points, and feedback from the Spurs match, Jake then introduced the two of us to talk about Pride of Irons and the Brighton game. We talked to the SLOs about Pride of Irons, how we started and what activities we’ve been doing, including Pride, Quiz nights, a night at the theatre, and various social activities. We then talked about how to address (and how not to address) LGBT people, before going on to the topic of Brighton. When they played their opening match of the season at Leicester, there were a number of reports of homophobic abuse being directed at their supporters, and a few arrests were made. Clearly, we and the club don’t want this to happen at West Ham, and equally we don’t want the negative publicity either. Along with Jake, we then reiterated the steps that the SLOs (and stewards) should follow if they become aware of any homophobic abuse. It was good to see that the club take this subject seriously, and it was also repeated by the stadium operator’s Safety Manager, and the Metropolitan Police, who were both at the meeting as well.
So if you’re at the Brighton game (or any other game, for that matter) and you hear, or are subjected to, homophobic abuse, what should you do? Simply speak to a steward (in the orange jackets), or an SLO (in the claret jackets) and they will take action and ensure that the control room are alerted, which may then alert the police depending on circumstances. The Metropolitan Police have classified the match as Category A, which means it’s low risk from a policing perspective. Ordinarily, there wouldn’t be any police inside the stadium for a category A match, but for this game there will be police officers inside the stadium because of the risk of homophobic abuse.
After our presentation, Jim & I answered various questions and it was great that so many SLOs came up to us after the meeting to say how proud they were that the club were supportive of what Pride of Irons are doing. We then had a wander around ‘behind the scenes’ including a sneaky visit to the press room, and up onto the stands to look at flags and take a few measurements, so that we can get a Pride of Irons flag displayed soon.
We then left Jake and the SLOs just as the gates were opening, and headed over to the Podium to meet up with a few members for a couple of pre-match drinks. And then the day went rapidly downhill as we watched a very dull 90-minutes, with a cheeky goal at the end.
So next game at the London Stadium is on Friday 20th October against Brighton. We’re not expecting any problems, but if there are then the club, stadium and police are ready to deal with it. If you’re going to the match, why not join us at the Podium beforehand. Check Facebook and join our Match Day whatsapp group for details. And there’s a free Pride of Irons badge for every member that comes along. And if you have any problems at the game, speak to a steward or SLO, and let us know as well.