United have not been able to do the ballot for West Ham away. This Q&A looks at why this may be.
Q. What happened when we played West Ham earlier this season in the FA Cup?
Newham Council, which issues Upton Park’s safety certificate, held a safety advisory group (SAG) meeting to discuss what safety measures were needed in and around the away end.
They were concerned that, because we were entitled to more tickets in the cup than in the league, there was potential for safety problems.
Q. What kind of safety problems?
We don’t know. We asked the SAG’s deputy chair and another person who was at the meeting what happened, but they refused to tell us.
Q. But surely, we the people who would follow the safety measures had a right to know about it?
According to everyone in the world except Newham Council – yes.
The SAG is a council-run publicly funded committee which, according to the Ground Safety Advisory Group, should publish its minutes quickly after meetings so interested parties like fans’ groups can see them.
Q. So did Reds Away raise this?
Yes. We asked for the minutes and the council said “no”.
We put in a request under The Freedom of Information Act and the council said “no” arguing that the SAG members might feel like they can’t make decisions in future if their discussions are made public.
Q. Did Reds Away appeal?
Yes. The result was due yesterday but Newham Council us if we’ll wait until Thursday.
We objected to that.
Q. Why Thursday?
The SAG meets again on Wednesday and the council wants to give members a chance to check that they are happy with the meeting minutes (even though they already had chance to do so two months ago).
Q. What else might be happening at this meeting?
As you’ve probably worked out by now, we can only guess at what goes on behind closed doors (even though we pay for the meeting to take place), but we suspect they will recommend measures that need to be taken for the league game against United.
Q. Why haven’t they done so sooner?
To the SAG, the kick off could be crucial.
So it stands to reason that they waited until after the outcome of the United – Reading game to judge the likelihood of a late kick off.
Q. But the date and time is still to be fixed. Shouldn’t they wait until that’s sorted before they make their decision?
In theory, yes.
But practically, they have to give West Ham time to use the safety recommendations to come up with an allocation, give United time to run the ballot, notify applicants and send out tickets and it’s possible that waiting for the date to be fixed might hinder all that.
That said, there’s nothing to stop them forming two sets of recommendations that West Ham can put in place depending on the kick-off time.
Q. What other factors are likely to influence what recommendations they put in place?
The police report from the cup game.
We asked for a copy of this a month back and are expecting to get the report today.
Q. What allocation do you think United will get?
We’re entitled to 3,000 and we got 2,900 in 2009/11, but this fell to 2,200 in 2010/11 due to what a GSAG inspector called “poor behaviour” which “can lead to a build up of dangerous conditions”
Q. When is it likely to be confirmed?
Early next week.
Q. What does Reds Away and United fans’ groups think of all this?
It would be hard to make a judgement on why they have recommended safety measures if we don’t know a) what they are and b) why they feel them necessary.
Generally, fans’ groups accept the measures, offer to help inform fans about them and try to get a guarantee that next year’s allocation will rise if there are fewer or no problems.
What concerns us is that West Ham and Newham Council are a million miles away from other councils when it comes to talking to fans’ groups and being open and transparent.
MUST, Reds Away and The Football Supporters’ Federation are working hard behind the scenes to change this, but it could be a few years before we see real change.