Dear Lady Brady,

Carol Ann Wood
Thursday 27 October 2016

Lady Brady
C/o Taxpayer’s Stadium
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
London E20 2ST

West Ham United 2 – 1 Chelsea EFL Cup round 4

Dear Lady Brady,

I’m not impressed, to put it mildly. I therefore want to impart what an unpleasant experience I had at the Taxpayer’s Stadium, West Ham United’s new rented home, last night. I want you, for once, to try and empathise with the real supporters who weren’t out looking for any Eastender’s-style argy bargy. We are not all like Shirley or Phil. I want to you to acknowledge exactly what it was like and take proper measures to ‘sort it’ rather than sitting in your taxpayer’s boardroom making pseudo sympathetic noises, saying ‘those sort of people’ aren’t welcome ther. No shit, Sherlock.

I had been well versed in the troubles at the Taxpayer’s Stadium. My window-cleaner is a West Ham season ticket holder and he advised me in August to think very carefully about whether or not to attend the league game. I thought I’d have plenty of time to decide, but then came the draw for the EFL Cup. And you see, Lady Brady, I am a bit of a stubborn old gal. I don’t let anyone or anything put me off going to watch my Chelsea, if possible. So, agreeing to meet with a friend and her dad for the journeys there and back, to appease a rather concerned Mr Non-Footy, I set off into the unknown. Your club had made noises about having put better measures in place. Fool that I am, I almost believed you. They turned out to be just pretty bubbles in the air.

We were one of the lucky lot who managed to access the stadium with no problems. There were others who didn’t get in till half time. Why was this? Did you and your board members actually analyse the transport system, and the logistics of providing just eight turnstiles for over five thousand away supporters? Especially on a week night when some of them would have come straight from work?

Have you ever actually walked round the Taxpayer’s Stadium, Lady Brady? Did you have any discussions with a Health and Safety officer to assess whether the segregation and stewarding was adequate? How come there has been crowd trouble for every game you’ve hosted at your rented manor to date? Did you really think you had ‘sorted it’ for this cup game between two teams whose sets of fans are notorious for their dislike of one another? I mean, I like my window cleaner, he’s a a very nice young man. But if we spotted one another in the crowd, we’d probably chant less than kind things about one another’s clubs at each other. The thing is, not everyone stops at tribal chants. Testosterone and alcohol is a heady mix and there was an abundance of both on display last night. It’s nothing unusual, but I’ve been going to this fixture for years, and I never once felt unsafe inside the Boleyn. I did have an encounter on a bus once, whereupon a woman with claret and blue hair and a demeanour like the Kray twins stared menacingly at me for the entire journey. No fisticuffs or coin throwing took place, though. I suspect that if she’d tried it, Dot Cotton would have sprung from nowhere and admonished her with, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22 verse 39 and Mark 12 verse 31.”

I can have no complaints about the result, my team being second best all evening, but I dread to think what might have happened had we won the tie. As it was, some of your supporters weren’t satisfied enough with winning, and threw coins, seats and plastic bottles at us. When a coin narrowly missed me (others weren’t so lucky) I decided, with five minutes left on the clock, to retreat to the concourse to wait for my friend and her dad. I have never, ever, previously left a match before the whistle, in my life. I was actually frightened for my safety because there were supporters heading for one another over the claret tarpaulin with the stewards looking on haplessly. Why were the riot police not called in earlier? Why did you not have a radio system installed when you started renting the Taxpayer’s Stadium? Were you frightened that the taxpayers would take against you when they realised it would go on their bills? How were you even granted a stadium licence without this in place? Do you have any strategies for emergency evacuation should there be a security alert? I doubt it!

To say the stewards didn’t know what to do last night when it all went off is an understatement. How much are they being paid? What is their training? I spoke to three of them who shrugged their shoulders at me, despite the fact they could see I was upset at what I had witnessed. I’m getting on a bit now, Lady Brady. It happens to us all. I may have been wearing my Doc Martins but it doesn’t mean I want to mess with a Mitchell. And if you’ve ever been in a crowd when it’s all gone off, you’d know how easy it is to get inadvertently injured whilst trying to get out of the way.

The walk to the station was extremely hostile, with fights breaking out all the way. We didn’t even know which station we were gong to. Again, confusion and misinformation was the order of the night. It was such a relief to arrive at Stratford. And that’s when I discovered all the messages on my phone, encased with a neutral cover for the occasion instead of my usual Chelsea one. My son, daughter, various friends, they’d all heard about the trouble and were worried about me.

The whole experience was like being back in the late 1970s, and it’s not a time I want to revisit. But never mind, I suppose you are congratulating yourself on your fantastic bubble machines. How very modern. Who paid for those? Would the money not have been better spent on adequate safety measures?

I am now unsure as to whether I want to return to the Taxpayer’s Stadium for the league fixture. I’d like to think that this latest debacle will stir you and your board into action and that you really will ‘get it sorted’. But I won’t hold my breath. Should you draw say, Millwall, in the FA Cup later this season, would you be thinking, ooh, whoopee, a wonderful traditional derby?

I’ll be brutally honest, Lady Brady, and say that – to paraphrase Kevin Keegan – I would ‘just love it’ if your club were relegated. That’s very unlikely, as Mr Billic is doing a reasonable job. But I would, I’d love it.

Yours angrily,
Carol Ann Wood

PS Maybe you should spend a bit more time assessing your rented stadium’s safety issues and less on The Apprentice.

PPS Would you tell Mr Sullivan that I retrieved two pound coins from under my seat. I have donated them to the Women Against Pornography Group.

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