UEFA accused of putting West Ham fans’ lives at risk by not responding to ‘obvious threat’

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UEFA have been accused of putting West Ham fans’ lives at risk by presiding over a ‘major security and safety failure’ at Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final by one of the authors of the independent report into the disturbances at last year’s Champions League final.

In a strongly-worded interview with Mail Sport Professor Clifford Stott claimed UEFA have failed to implement the 21 recommendations made by the Independent Review Panel after the Liverpool fans were caught up in a series of horrific crushes ousted the Stade de France. He also criticised UEFA for not responding to the ‘obvious threat’ posed by AZ Alkmaar Ultras to travelling fans ahead of the game.

UEFA are set to open an investigation into the violent scenes that marred West Ham’s 1-0 win, and have already requested CCTV footage from AZ Alkmaar, but Stott believes that the European governing body are also to blame for failing to ensure visiting fans were protected by stewards and police.

The Professor of Social Psychology at Keele University was one of nine members of the independent review panel established following the Champions League final last May, which after a nine-month investigation found that UEFA were ‘primarily responsible’ for the suffering experienced by Liverpool fans in Paris.

‘This is another major security and safety failure at a big UEFA event, and UEFA are ultimately responsible,’ Stott told Mail Sport. ‘The attacks from the AZ Ultras were absolutely horrific, and could easily have led to fans sustaining serious injuries or even deaths.

‘As we concluded in our report into the Champions League final UEFA have “primary responsibility” as it’s their event, and they should have responded to what was a clear threat to public order. As with Paris 2022 this was a clear failure of interoperability. UEFA pledged to act on our 21 recommendations after the report was published, but the evidence suggests this is not the case.’

Stott believes that the threat posed to West Ham fans became increasingly obvious on Thursday afternoon, and that UEFA failed to respond.

‘There was lots of evidence on social media throughout the afternoon of Alkmaar fans acting in an aggressive manner,’ he said. ‘There was an obvious threat, but it didn’t lead to any changes on the ground.

‘As soon as the threat emerged responsibility for securing the stadium should have been passed from AZ Alkmaar to the police, but this didn’t happen. The video evidence shows the Ultras ripping down the fencing to attack the West Ham fans and players’ families, with only a handful of stewards and no police present.

‘UEFA appear to have done nothing to help keep West Ham fans safe last night so how can we trust that they will take the appropriate steps ahead of the final in Prague, or the Champions League final in Istanbul.’

Stott also criticised UEFA for not contacting the independent review panel since their damning report was published in February.

‘We’ve not had any communication with UEFA since our report was published,’ he said. ‘There’s been no attempt to draw on our combined expertise or to ask how our recommendations can be put into practice.’

AZ Alkmaar apologised to West Ham and their fans yesterday, but UEFA are waiting to receive reports from the match officials and delegates before commenting.

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