West Ham United are likely to avoid being forced to play Premier League fixtures behind closed doors at the London Stadium, sources have told ESPN FC, despite the latest outbreak of supporter unrest at the ground during Saturday’s home defeat against Burnley.
The Football Association are investigating the events of the weekend, which saw West Ham captain Mark Noble confront one pitch invader before wrestling him to the ground prior to another supporter marching to the centre-circle with a corner flag in his hands.
Club owners David Gold and David Sullivan were subjected to derogatory chants by supporters close to the directors’ box before being led away by security, while some young West Ham fans were allowed to sit in the Burnley dug-out by the visiting club to protect them from the ugly scenes around them.
There have been other high-profile crowd control incidents at the London Stadium since West Ham moved into the ground from Upton Park at the start of the 2016-17 season, with one Hammers supporter arrested in March 2017 for jumping over advertising hoardings to confront Chelsea players during the Premier League defeat to Antonio Conte’s team.
In October 2016, hundreds of rival supporters clashed during West Ham’s EFL Cup victory against Chelsea at the stadium.
But although West Ham could face a heavy fine for Saturday’s events, sources said that ground closure or points deductions are unlikely.
Both sanctions are available to an FA Commission, should it be decided that the incident was worthy of such a penalty. But sources insist that both are at the extreme end of the scale, with no recent precedent of either punishment being applied.
The heaviest recent punishment issued by the FA for crowd disturbance was the £200,000 fine applied to Aston Villa in May 2015 following the mass pitch invasion during an FA Cup quarterfinal against West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park two months earlier.
On that occasion, West Brom players Joleon Lescott and Callum McManaman were shoved and confronted as they attempted to leave the pitch, with the police making 17 arrests.
Sources also said that charges are not likely to brought against West Ham for at least a week due to the need to seek observations from all parties involved during the Burnley game.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_