After securing their place in the Europa Conference League final on Thursday evening, West Ham players clashed with AZ Alkmaar supporters. The incident occurred moments after Pablo Fornals’ injury-time goal sealed a 1-0 win for David Moyes’ side, who will play Fiorentina in the final at the Eden Arena in Prague on June 7. West Ham’s players rushed over to the dugout where AZ’s supporters had begun attacking rival fans sat in the hospitality section, many of whom were either friends or family of the West Ham players. Captain Declan Rice and sporting director Mark Noble attempted to force the AZ supporters back, but balaclava-clad AZ fans went on to attack West Ham supports in the away end of the stadium.
Former West Ham midfielder Joe Cole, who was working pitchside for BT Sport, said: ‘It’s absurd. Ridiculous grown men, AZ Alkmaar fans attacking the fans where families were sitting, our friends and colleagues. The players tried to break it up. You have to look at UEFA and AZ Alkmaar with things like that. Turning up with balaclavas throwing punches, it’s just ridiculous. The players are rightfully concerned, families, friends, kids over there. Ridiculous in the modern game, pathetic.’ Former West Ham striker Carlton Cole, who was also working as a pundit for the game, added: ‘There was no need for it. West Ham came, did their job, didn’t disrespect them. When a goal like that goes in you’re elated, happy, you can’t suppress feelings. Your family is over there with the fans. You have to understand that. What is that about? It’s the same men that were outside the player’s hotels, setting off fireworks. What are they doing? Chill out.’
West Ham boss Moyes said: ‘We need to wait for the dust to settle. The biggest problem was the area players have friends and families in. The players were angry they couldn’t see if they were okay. We need to wait and ask the officials what happened.’ After the incident, UEFA and AZ Alkmaar must take action to ensure that such scenes do not occur again in the future. Fans must be held accountable for their actions and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again in the future.