Arsene Wenger says English football’s chances of introducing safe standing to Premier League terraces is suffering as a consequence of the regular crowd trouble at West Ham United’s home games.
The Hammers have struggled to keep rival fans separate since moving to their new home at the former Olympic Stadium with Chelsea fans complaining that coins and chairs had been thrown in their direction during Wednesday night’s EFL Cup game.
Asked about the situation at his pre-Sunderland press conference, Wenger stressed that he doesn’t feel hooliganism has returned but noted it doesn’t look great when arguing in favour of such an emotive issue as standing at games.
“I’m surprised [by the scenes], even more than I’m disappointed. West Ham has usually a very strong fan base, very motivated. As well we are not used in England to face this kind of problems anymore.
“Personally, I’m in favour of the resurgence of standing opportunities behind the goals and that [the trouble] is not a very good advert to come back to standing opportunities for people in the stands. I’m surprised and hopefully West Ham will get rid of the problem very quickly.
“Yes, of course [it’s a setback for safe standing]. It’s against completely and gives an argument to the people who are against it.
On whether he feels games could be played behind closed doors as a punishment for teams who fail to control their supporters, Wenger noted: “No, there is nothing more dull than that. I prefer not to play, than play games behind closed doors.”
Arsenal have repeatedly hinted that they would be in favour of introducing a standing area at the Emirates should the game’s authorities be persuaded that it can done safely. Across Europe – most recently at Celtic – club’s have created standing areas using versatile rail seating.
“I believe the closer you are to the position of the players, the more passionate you are,” added Wenger.
“As well, it would allow us to have lower prices. You could get more spectators inside the stadiums and a more passionate atmosphere.
“I don’t believe there is a problem with hooliganism in England. You cannot say that one minor incident, I’ve heard it’s about 200 people [involved], is a general problem in the country.”