West Ham fans BANNED from entering the Bayer Leverkusen home end for their Europa League tie to defuse potential crowd trouble – but thousands fly out to Germany for next chapter of European adventure
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West Ham fans BANNED from entering the Bayer Leverkusen home end for their Europa League tie to defuse potential crowd trouble – but thousands fly out to Germany for next chapter of European adventure

Apr 12, 2024

German officials have acted to try to defuse potential crowd trouble by banning hundreds of West Ham supporters from entering the home fans section in the Europa League tie in Bayer Leverkusen, Mail Sport can reveal.

The move follows an operation involving UEFA, Bayer Leverkusen and police to prevent a repeat of the violence that followed West Ham’s match with German side Eintracht Frankfurt in the same tournament two years ago.

There are also safety concerns for any West Ham fan who does beat the tight security and take a place among rival supporters after a German fan was repeatedly punched by Arsenal supporters at the Emirates stadium last night.

The German man had evaded the ban on Bayern Munich followers which had been imposed after fireworks were thrown onto the pitch in a Champions League encounter with Italian side Lazio.

Officials in Leverkusen acted after safety concerns were raised after hundreds of West Ham fans secured tickets among Bayer Leverkusen supporters for tomorrow night’s Europa Cup quarter final first leg.

West Ham supporters have flown to Cologne ahead of their Europa League quarter-final

West Ham supporters have flown to Cologne ahead of their Europa League quarter-final

Police kept a watchful eye on the groups inside a square in the city, which is near Leverkusen

Police kept a watchful eye on the groups inside a square in the city, which is near Leverkusen

Hundreds of West Ham fans have been banned from entering the Leverkusen home section

Hundreds of West Ham fans have been banned from entering the Leverkusen home section

An investigation rooted out several hundred West Ham supporters who had joined the Bayer Leverkusen club membership and were then able to buy tickets among home supporters.

They were identified by British addresses or email linked to internet providers and banned.

Bayer were reported to be returning ticket prices of 15 Euros, but it was unclear whether the 35 Euros fans laid out for the obligatory ‘Bayer 04 Club’ memberships would be returned.

High-flying West Ham were allocated 1,790 seats for their supporters in the 30,000 capacity Bay Arena for the first leg of the last eight tie.

But around double that number are set to descend on Cologne which is less than 10 miles from Leverkusen with hundreds pouring in today.

Officials have acted quickly to prevent potential crowd trouble ahead of Thursday's match

Officials have acted quickly to prevent potential crowd trouble ahead of Thursday’s match

Hammers supporters hung large banners outside a closed shop and soaked up the atmosphere

Hammers supporters hung large banners outside a closed shop and soaked up the atmosphere

Alex Stones, 26, from Wendover, said: ‘My ticket got cancelled last night by email and I am well cheesed off. I had already bought a flight ticket and paid for a hotel.’

The roofer, who has been supporting West Ham home and away for a decade, added: ‘Me and my mates were calling it “The Great Escape” and thought we had done it and would see the team tomorrow night.

‘The Bayer website was in German, so my girlfriend Lisa helped me translate it on the internet and my money was accepted and I was over the moon.

‘But it has all gone flat for me and three mates who have come here and are in the same situation. We just wanted to be at the match. But I suppose we’ll have to sink a few beers and watch it in a bar here.’

West Ham fans were attacked by Eintracht Frankfurt fans in Seville in 2022 and the blame for the violence was put squarely on German supporters after fans of the London club were assaulted in raids on bars as they drank post-match.

Harry Turner, 31, a parcel delivery driver from Romford, who was in Seville and arrived ticketless in Germany today, said: ‘I get it why West Ham fans shouldn’t be in the home side’s seats.

West Ham fans were attacked by Eintracht Frankfurt supporters in Seville in 2022

West Ham fans were attacked by Eintracht Frankfurt supporters in Seville in 2022

‘But any fan who does make it through tomorrow night has taken a calculated risk. He will be there to watch West Ham not to have a fight or get beaten up.

‘The answer has to be to give West Ham fans more tickets. Bayer need to be opening up more of their seats to us. We ain’t here to cause trouble and only to see our boys play.’

James Catchpole, 38, a fire and security officer from St Albans, was one of the lucky ones arriving in Germany today.

Mr Catchpole, who has attended every home and away West Ham match this season, was allowed to purchase a ticket under the London’s side ‘priority points’ system for die-hard fans.

As he sipped a beer in the sunshine outside the Corkonian Irish Pub close to the city’s cathedral, he said: ‘I can’t really explain what makes me week in and week out watch West Ham and put my good money down.

‘It is like having a virus that never leaves you. One minute West Ham will break your heart by losing but after a few days you recover and get back in line hoping to see them win.’

James Catchpole (left) and Peter Crane (right) were among the lucky fans arriving in Germany

James Catchpole (left) and Peter Crane (right) were among the lucky fans arriving in Germany

He said his bill for being at tomorrow night’s match was around a £1,000 with £600 going on a hotel room for two nights.

‘It is worth every penny. I have been supporting West Ham since I was aged seven and I will be at every match. I have even bought flight tickets for Italy as we could play there if we beat Leverkusen.

‘I think we are in with a good chance. We always stand up to the so called bigger teams.’

Builder Peter Crane, 53, from Hertford, will also be at the match and said he could not understand why more tickets were not allocated to West Ham.

‘I was in Prague last year when we won the Conference League, but I didn’t have a ticket for the match and neither did 5,000 others. We watched it in the fan park and it was still magical when we won.

‘But I am gutted for the West Ham fans who are coming here and won’t be there tomorrow night. I know what it feels like to be so close to the match and yet so far.’

Norman Galea (pictured) travels to watch West Ham away and said he would not miss the tie

Norman Galea (pictured) travels to watch West Ham away and said he would not miss the tie

Norman, a veteran supporter of the club, is pictured in a retro West Ham jersey aged 16

Norman, a veteran supporter of the club, is pictured in a retro West Ham jersey aged 16

A veteran fan, who last month completed his 500th trip from his home in Malta to watch West Ham, flew into Germany via Milan with his daughter.

Norman and Naomi Galea make fortnightly trips to London from their home in the Maltese seaside town of St Julian and also follow West Ham at away matches on occasions.

Mr Galea, 59, is celebrating his 35th wedding anniversary this week and said his ‘very lovely wife’ was totally understanding and also a West Ham fan.

At last year’s final in Prague, he travelled with his wife, but presented her with the one ticket he was allocated by the club, to thank her for years of devotion and support and watched the match with Naomi in a Czech bar.

He said: ‘There was no way I was going to miss the match with Bayer Leverkusen. I had to be there and I have tickets for me and Naomi.’

His first match was as a 16-year-old when he was at Wembley to see West Ham beat Arsenal 1-0 through a Trevor Brooking header.

Naomi Galea, who travels with Norman to games, is pictured next to club legend Mark Noble

Naomi Galea, who travels with Norman to games, is pictured next to club legend Mark Noble

‘I was taken there by my father who had worked in East London for a few years before we returned to Malta. From that day I have been with West Ham.’

His home is decorated with West Ham memorabilia, and he has the club’s Hammer emblem tattooed on his arm.

The electrical equipment retailer added: ‘West Ham is an obsession. I have kept every programme and every ticket.’

He said his love for West Ham was sown the day after the club had won the FA Cup in 1980 and the team’s coach pulled up outside his London hotel.

‘John Lyall, who was the manager, came to me and said the FA Cup was on the coach’s dashboard and I could have my picture taken with it.’

The young supporter and manager formed a friendship and exchanged letters with Lyall inviting him to watch West Ham’s stars training at Chadwell Heath.

Sean and Debs Fewel (above) live in New York but have flown out to Germany for the game

Sean and Debs Fewel (above) live in New York but have flown out to Germany for the game

‘I literally went to Upton Park, jumped in his car and he drove me to Chadwell Heath. He was a very kind man and good manager.’

Two New Yorkers, who follow West Ham from the Big Apple, also flew into Frankfurt before boarding a train to Cologne.

Sean and Debs Fewel landed tickets through their friend London lawyer Jack Levin who attends every one of West Ham’s matches year in, year out.

Barnsley-born Mrs Fewel said: ‘We know how lucky we are to be coming from America and to haver tickets and how difficult it is to get them.

‘Sean and I are West Ham mad. Last week we went to Nashville from New York to meet Jack Collison and Matt Jarvis who used to play for West Ham and were in America for a few days.

West Ham will look to progress to yet another European semi-final when they face Leverkusen

West Ham will look to progress to yet another European semi-final when they face Leverkusen

‘We watch the games in a pub called Smithfield Hall in Manhattan with about 100 other West Ham fans each week. It is always a great atmosphere. But nothing beats watching West Ham live in Europe.’

Police will step up security not only to help keep rival fans apart, but also to stave off the ISIS terrorist threat to this week’s European matches.

Posters circulated on social media alleging to be from the Al-Azaim Foundation, which is allied to ISIS, calling for attacks at this week’s matches.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 9pm locally, with the prospect of visiting fans spending all day in the city’s pubs before going onto Leverkusen.

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