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August 27, 2009

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Crowd violence mars Hammers' win

THE English Football Association wants life bans for those responsible for the crowd violence which marred Tuesday's League Cup match between West Ham United and Millwall.

"We absolutely condemn all of the disorder that has occurred at Upton Park...both inside and outside of the ground," an FA statement read.

Fans clashed outside the English Premier League club's Upton Park Stadium in London before kickoff and supporters invaded the pitch twice after West Ham scored in extra-time to beat the third division side 3-1.

A 44-year-old man was taken to hospital with a stab wound.

"We will very quickly be working with all parties, including the police and clubs to establish the facts," the FA statement continued.

"We expect all culprits to be banned from football for life - they have no place in our game."

West Ham said it would investigate fully the "deplorable" scenes.

"The club will not tolerate the unacceptable behavior witnessed... and will take the strongest possible action against anyone found responsible, including life bans."

The organizers of England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup also condemned the violence but described the scenes as "isolated."

English football's efforts to try and eradicate violence from the domestic game have been hailed as successful and are a major part of the 2018 campaign as England faces tough opposition from 10 opponents.

But TV footage beamed around the world of hundreds of fans hurling bottles and bricks and riot police outside Upton Park could damage the campaign to bring the game's biggest event to England.

Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said yesterday that the scenes at the match, which led to 13 arrests, were "a disgrace to football."

The England bid organizers issued a statement that said the scenes were regrettable. "England 2018 shares the FA's stance in condemning the disorder surrounding last night's Carling (League) Cup fixture between West Ham and Millwall."

Because the violence involved fans from two neighbors who have a history of trouble against each other, the England campaigners hope that it was a one-off incident rather than a sign that football trouble is on its way back to the days of the 1970s and '80s, when fans rioted on a regular basis.

"The scenes from Upton Park were a regrettable but isolated example of a culture that the football community has worked tirelessly to eradicate from our game," the bid organizers' statement read.

Several hundred fans confronted each other in streets close to the stadium, and police revealed CCTV footage of supporters hurling bottles and bricks at officers outside Upton Park.

Inside the ground, fans of both teams taunted each other, and stewards and police, some of then using batons, struggled to stop West Ham fans getting at the Millwall supporters. West Ham supporters ran onto the field several times, many of them after their team went ahead in extra time.

The teams walked off the field but returned after a few minutes. At the end of the game, more of the Hammers' fans ran onto the field to celebrate their win, some of them goading the visiting Millwall fans.


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