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Double standards at the home of football

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Some of you may have long suspected that football fans are treated differently from other sports fans and concert goers; now, with the help of someone from the inside, we can reveal the extent to which football fans are treated differently at the home of football. To preserve the writer’s anonymity, we can refer to him only as ‘the Secret Wembley Steward’. He gives us his tale below:

I’ve been to various events at Wembley recently, both as a fan and as a steward: the FA Cup final, playoff finals, concerts and boxing matches.

When it came to the football matches, the stewards were on top of things – there was no smoking, no persistent standing, no alcohol beyond the designated points at which it was allowed, and the events were all managed calmly and in a friendly manner, with the cooperation of the vast number of supporters.

When it comes to the concerts, I quickly realised that to attempt that level of event management was futile. 

Alcohol seemed to be everywhere regardless of the restrictions, which meant plenty of people were getting seriously inebriated. Stewards were reduced to keeping an eye on people for their own safety, rather than intervening to uphold the rules. 

As a result of the relatively free flow of alcohol, people would start to smoke. I know that 6-7 hours without a cigarette can be arduous for some, and in the beginning stewards tried to have quiet words with those transgressors. It quickly became a losing battle, and therefore they had little option but to give up. 

As for standing? Well, who sits at a concert?

The boxing was the same – everyone was ‘up for it’, and the stewards were pretty much powerless, apart from keeping the stairwells and exits clear, and monitoring the state that people were in there was very little they could do. 

Now, had these events been football matches, being seated would have been mandatory. Procedures allow for 2 warnings and then an ejection (with the exception of ‘moments of excitement’ during the game, after which we allow only 2-3 minutes of standing). Alcohol is a complete no-no, and the same goes for smoking. We might offer someone a quiet warning, but we still eject offenders. 

As I left the Eminem concert, I overheard a steward say to police ‘thank f*ck that’s over’. The officers he was speaking to nodded, agreeing that it had been a ‘total bloody nightmare’. Even the station manager at Wembley Park bemoaning that the concert goers were ‘worse than football fans’ at adhering to the timed entry management and cordons implemented for safe access to the trains back in to London. Access was seriously restricted due to concert goers breaking the cordons. 

It’s certainly interesting to see the two sides of the Wembley event coin

Thanks to Jonas for the image reproduced under CC license.

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