Boleyn Ground. 18th August 2012.
For 90 minutes most of the travelling Aston Villa away supporters who’d came to witness Paul Lambert’s first game as Villa’s manager, sat in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand baking in the hot sun, as a 30+ degree heat wave gripped East London. It was beautiful weather to mark the start of a new Premiership season. Having brought my ticket on the day, I was forced to sit high up in the Alpari Stand just to the right of the Villa faithful. The Villa fans below were shielding their eyes from the direct sun to watch the game. While the heat in the Alpari was stifling, it was at least shaded from any direct sun. A small consolidation at least for missing out on sitting with my fellow Villans.
The heat was so intense that Villa players were already taking in liquids in breaks in play after only about 20 minutes. Unlike some fans though, they hadn’t had a few beers before the game. Nevertheless, fans could grab a half-time over-priced refreshment to avoid dehydration…or so they thought.
Now, most football fans aren’t ones to complain about things and they are used to putting up with minimal comfort at football grounds (considering the cost of tickets), but the situation that transpired at the Boleyn Ground went even beyond that threshold.
Even fans that left their seats a shade before half-time, were faced with a big queue for the one kiosk (with five staff) catering for around 2600+ Villa fans. And soon, Villa supporters were told the soft drinks and water had run out. Not a great situation anyway, but factor in a stifling heat, and you have a potential problem.
While fans were getting decent sun tans for their £39 tickets, they were at serious risk of dehydration, especially the children in the crowd. While ‘health and safety laws’ will banded about by clubs when they don’t want supporters to do things (like bring in banners to Villa Park) , what Villa supporters experienced at the Boleyn Ground was certainly negligence under the health and safety act.
Having contacted the West Midland’s Police Football Force Unit about the situation, I was informed they weren’t aware of the problem on the day. They had informed the respective football police unit at West Ham, that Villa would bring a full allocation back when the fixtures were announced. Obviously, there was also an oversight and poor planning by West Ham in terms of reacting to the heat on the day at the ground. The West Midlands Police Force unit will report Villa supporter’s problems to the Ground Safety Officer at West Ham.
The Football Supporters Federation – of whom MOMS is an affiliated member – has also been informed, and they can hopefully also approach West Ham (and other grounds), to ensure in the name of the safety of away fans, that such a situation doesn’t happen again. It’s a shame this problem occurred to take the gloss of the good atmosphere at the ground, with the home fans also in fine voice.
If it was a few degrees hotter though, who knows what could have happened?
Some MOMS Villa Supporter’s views of their Boleyn Ground experience
‘It was absolutely horrendous, it was so hot as well, it is definitely a health and safety issue. I heard people complaining to the stewards, but they weren’t bothered to be honest, they said keep moving; there was nowhere to move to, that was the whole point! It was dangerous, in my opinion!’ – Sarah
‘They know the away allocation, they know what time half-time is, it’s a complete joke.’ – Chris
‘One kiosk for over 2000 fans. I had to queue with my young daughter in horrific temperatures nearly fainted. Dreadful’. – Julie
‘I was appalled and surely it’s a health and safety issue. At one point i thought i was going to get crushed – one bar, five staff for around 3000 fans !!!! Not good enough – this is premier league not championship.’ – Michael
‘You get treated better in prison, it was shocking. I’m 26 and could cope with it, but god knows how people’s kids did!’ – Daniel H
‘It was a joke – one bar for three thousand fans. I went down for a beer on 35 mins and didn’t get one till 4 o’clock – shocking in this day in age!’ – Daniel H
‘Everyone waiting for a drink was complaining about service/facilities. I only saw one steward and she didn’t say anything. It took me 30 mins to get served in what was basically a sauna! And they had no water, soft drinks or change! ‘ – Karl
‘It was shocking at west ham !! Outside was about 30+ degrees, so god knows how hot it was inside ? I went to get a drink, but couldn’t be bothered to wait and to top it off I was in row c, three from the front and in the sun all game.’ – John
‘The conditions were very bad , waited about 30 minutes in the q to get a drink at the only kiosk, they had no change everyone was packed in like sardines, by the time I got away from the kiosk, I was dripping wet like most others as the heat was sauna like , what a joke.’ – Ash C
‘It was an absolute shambles…’ – Daniel T
‘Half time was a disgrace! It was a sweaty rat race just for a drink! Charging that much money the service and facilitys were a joke!’ – Jack R
‘West Ham knew a week ahead of the game what the weather would be like and did not prepare properly for it and for the fact that Villa had sold out their allocation of tickets.’ – Mark R
‘There was no point of even going into the concourse, no room whatsoever, a lot just stayed in their seats @ HT’ – Nathan
‘I didn’t even bother going down there after hearing complaints from others returning empty-handed even before the half time whistle.’ – Mike
‘The conditions were horrendous at half time trying to get a drink in the concourse.’ – Nigel P
‘It was a disgrace, could of easily been another Hillsborough’ – John F
‘One of, if not the worst, away ends in football’ – Daniel S
If you were at the game in the Away section of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand, please let us know your experience in the comments below or feel free to email us on [email protected] . Afterall, it’s not cheap to follow Villa away from home, so you deserve a certain level of respect and treatment.
Follow MOMS on Twitter @oldmansaid , so you can tweet any problems at matches.