West Ham fans banned for three years over ‘moronic’ pitch invasion

Tristan Kirk

Two West Ham fans who led a pitch invasion in protest at the running of the club were branded “moronic” by a judge who banned them from football for three years.

Ronnie Bailey, 20, and Alexander Young, 25, jumped over the barriers at the London Stadium and ran onto the pitch during the Hammers’ 3-0 defeat to Burnley on March 10. Bailey, a former West Ham mascot, was rugby-tackled by team captain Mark Noble, who was clearly angry that the game had been disrupted.

Young directed his anger at goalkeeper Joe Hart, rushing towards him before he was intercepted by a steward and then tripped by Burnley striker Ashley Barnes. West Ham fans had been planning a protest march before the Premier League tie, aimed at the club’s owners David Gold and David Sullivan.

However, when the march was cancelled and West Ham went a goal down in the second half, the mood in the stadium turned ugly. After a series of individual pitch invasions, a small group of fans crowded around the directors’ box chanting and throwing missiles, including coins, at Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan. Some young fans were ushered into the Burnley dugout for their safety.

In Pictures | West Ham pitch invasion at the London Stadium | 10/03/18

In Pictures | West Ham pitch invasion at the London Stadium | 10/03/18

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At Thames magistrates’ court on Friday, District Judge Gareth Branston fined Bailey and Young and banned them from all football matches for the next three years. He said the men, both Hammers fans from a young age, had been the “catalyst” for the unrest as they were first to go onto the pitch.

Of Bailey’s confrontation with the West Ham captain, he said: “Mr Bailey was pushed to the floor by the player who was clearly unhappy that play was being disrupted in such a moronic fashion.”

“Their actions incited and encouraged others to misbehave”, he said.

“They were prominent actors in a sustained period of disruption, abuse and violence that endangered the safety of players, officials and fans.”

Pointing out that “countless” children had been at the game and that the scenes were broadcast to millions, the judge added that he needed to deter others from misbehaving at matches. “If there was no order, I fear what message that would send to those tempted to act in a similar fashion at other matches”, he said.

The judge said Bailey, a labourer, and Young, who is a policy officer for a professional association he refused to name, were “cowed, sober, and alone” in the dock, in contrast to their actions at the game.

Both men have already been given lifetime bans from West Ham home games, and will now be prevented under a court order from attending all football matches around the country until the 2021/22 season.

Bailey, from Islington, and Young, of Gillingham, pleaded guilty to going onto a playing area at a football match. Bailey was fined £330 and ordered to pay £203 in court costs and fees. Young was fined £500 and ordered to pay £220 in court costs and fees.