EXCLUSIVE: How Czech police are preparing for 25,000 ticketless fans getting ‘drunk and violent’ on 36p beer, with 10,000 officers descending on Prague to stop chaos at West Ham’s European final
- West Ham will play Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final in Prague
- Each team has only been granted 4,890 official tickets for the game on June 7
- Thousands more fans are expected to travel to the Czech Republic for the game
Police will be drafted in from all over the Czech Republic to boost the numbers to more than 10,000 officers for the Europa Conference League final in Prague next month.
It comes after the attack by AZ Alkmaar ultras on innocent West Ham fans last week and is part of the effort to curb violence at the showpiece event between the Hammers and Fiorentina on June 7.
Security is being racked up to ease concerns about potential trouble between supporters and UEFA have called an emergency meeting in the host city for Friday involving Britain’s National Police Chief’s Council, Scotland Yard, Italian and Prague Police, Mail Online can reveal.
The number of police and private security guards on duty in the city will outnumber ticketed supporters of West Ham and Fiorentina whose clubs have only been granted 4,890 official tickets each as prices on the black market soared to near £9,000.
Fiorentina’s Stadio Artemio Franchi has a capacity of 43,147 while West Ham’s London Stadium can seat around 66,000. It has been estimated that 25,000 fans without tickets will converge on Prague.
West Ham are set to face Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final in Prague on June 7
The game will be played at Slavia Prague’s stadium, which has a capacity of just over 20,000
Police will be drafted in from all over the Czech Republic for the final to ease safety concerns
The number of police and private security guards will outnumber Italian and English fans with tickets inside the ground with West Ham and Fiorentina each given an allocation of 4,890
The increased security comes after AZ Alkmaar ultras attacked innocent West Ham fans last week at the second leg of their semi-final tie
But a police source confirmed to MailOnline that the selling of beer would not be stopped
UEFA chose to stage the final in the Slavia Prague stadium which has an official capacity of just over 20,000 including standing room, despite it meaning many supporters would be disappointed.
But an additional worry for the security teams will be the availability of cheap beer around the final where it is cheaper than a packet of chewing gum in local stores at just 36p.
A senior Czech police source said: ‘We have no confirmation, but we believe there will be problems of fighting between rival fans and we are confident we can keep it to a minimum.
‘There will be no stopping in the selling of beer, we will not be doing that. We know people will get drunk and be violent, but we are prepared.’
He said a ring of steel will be thrown around the Fortuna Arena on June 7 and ticketless fans will be barred from entering the police zone around the stadium which is home to Slavia Prague.
An area around rival club side Sparta Prague’s Generali Česká Pojišťovna Arena will be used as a fan zone to help one set of ticketless fans view the match on giant screens, he revealed.
Rival supporters will be marshalled to a second fan zone at Výstaviště Praha, which is also called the Prague Exhibition Ground, to watch the final on screens.
In between them will be thousands of armed police and riot officers to help keep trouble to a minimum.
The Czech police source said major planning would get underway next Friday, but the two venues had already been decided on.
MailOnline took in Slavia Prague vs FC Viktoria Plzen to see what West Ham fans can expect
The Hammers and Fiorentina have only been granted 4,890 official tickets each for the final
There will be strict security measures in place to ease concerns of violence between fans
A ring of steel will be thrown around the Fortuna Arena on June 7 and ticketless fans will be barred from entering the police zone surrounding the stadium
He added: ‘UEFA made the decision to bring the final here more than a year ago. Perhaps a bigger stadium would be better, but we all have to live with it now.’
But lifelong West Ham fan Jack Levin from Thorpe Bay, Essex, said he did not believe West Ham supporters would cause trouble and added: ‘It is going to the party to end all parties.’
Jack, who booked his air tickets to Prague six week ago, added: ‘I was at the FA Cup Final in 1980 which was the last time West Ham won any real silverware. So for me it won’t be my first chance to see the Hammers win anything.
‘But that’s why so many West Ham fans will be in Prague, even though they won’t actually see the match. We have waited 40 years for this.
‘We all just want to be part of that amazing atmosphere. We will probably take over a square and drink loads of beer. There will be claret and blue colours everywhere.
‘But I don’t think there will be aggravation because our intention is only to celebrate West Ham at a European Final.
‘It is wrong that the final will be at such a small stadium. I know it is a third tier European final, but UEFA should have looked better at the possibility of a Premier League club with such a massive fan base getting there.
‘We have more than 60,000 inside the London Stadium and we are getting only a few thousand tickets.’
There will be thousands of armed police and riot officers to help keep trouble to a minimum
It has been estimated that around 25,000 fans without tickets will converge on Prague (pictured – Prague city centre)
Beer in local stores surrounding the stadium is cheaper than a packet of chewing gum at 36p
A Czech police source also told MailOnline that major planning would get underway on Friday
He said he and his group of West Ham fans, who include his daughter Cara, 29, were hopeful of securing official tickets.
‘I have a West Ham home and away season ticket and the club are basing who gets the tickets on a points system. I have been to most matches and all the European games. I was in Gent for the quarter final and at Thursday’s semi-final. Fingers crossed.
‘But it is stupid that we find ourselves in this situation. The final should be allocating at least 15,000-20,000 seats to each set of supporters.
‘But on June 7 Prague will be rocking with West Ham fans and few will care about the cost or hassle about getting there and not seeing the match. Win or lose, we booze.’
The venue for the final is set in a residential area, surrounded by blocks of flats, a mall and a Tesco supermarket selling cheap booze which has lines of supporters at each match snapping up cheap beer.
MailOnline saw the more convivial side of football at the stadium where the final will be played when Slavia Prague met FC Viktoria Plzen on Saturday night.
Beer flowed freely around the stadium and supporters began necking bottles which cost 36p while in the same supermarket, a stone’s throw from the stadium, chewing gum retails at twice the price.
Eighty police officers were on duty at the ground on Saturday, supported by stewards who frisked supporters and there were no arrests among the 15,486 fans who went through turnstiles.
Police forces will be on red alert for the final, amid concerns about trouble between supporters
But West Ham fan Jack Levin (centre) believes their fans won’t cause any trouble in Prague
The security at the match between Slavia Prague and Viktoria Plzen on Saturday was measured
Supporters let off red flares behind a goal in the north stand where fanatical fans sang along
The security at the match was measured and a handful of under cover police officers dressed in jeans and T-shirts mingled with the fans, some who are ultras.
Although the stadium itself is compact and up-to-date with video screens and CCTV, the outside has several barren areas where tonnes of stones and rubble will need clearing to avoid them being used as missiles.
But the easy-going security system allowed supporters to let off scores of red flares behind a goal in the north stand where fanatical fans sang along to a drum beat and unfurled giant ultra banners.
Smoke from the flares enveloped the players as the match kicked-off, but the Europa Conference League Final will see much heavier measures.
At the southern end of the pitch, around 100 FC Victoria Plzen fans were surrounded by stewards and 10-feet high fencing, but there was no hint of any trouble.
Hundreds of fans watched the match from the top tier of three stands while standing at an elevation of 390 feet.
The rival fans mixed freely in a McDonalds outlet under the stadium and drank beer brought to the perimeter area outside the gates by businesses.
After the match, which ended in a 2-1 victory for Slavia, the home side took to their knees for a full five minutes in front of their fans to salute them for their support.
But Sebastian Stramsky, 26, a Slavia Prague ultra, slammed UEFA for staging the match in his clubs compact ground which has a similar capacity to Millwall’s ground, The Den.
There were no signs of any trouble though at the game which ended in a 2-1 win for Slavia
Slavia supporters also unfurled giant ultra banners as they cheered their team onto victory
The Fortuna Arena is set in a residential area, surrounded by blocks of flats in the Czech capital
He said: ‘Okay, it will make my club more famous, but it is all about money for whoever can profit from this match with UEFA.
‘I feel sorry for the fans who cannot get tickets because the ground only has around 20,000 seats. It is too small for this final.’
Michael Skmaa, 28, added: ‘We welcome the fans, but we will support West Ham at the final because they have two of our best players Tomas Soucek amd Vladimír Coufal.’
Another Slavia supporter Dr Emma Mouckova, 27, added: ‘We feel for the fans from Italy and England who will not see the match. But it will be great for Prague.
‘If the fans come without tickets, that is okay because they are coming to support their teams and want to be here.’
Slavia fans Jan Segejovi and his daughter Katerina said they were sure the final would be peaceful.
Mr Segejovi said: ‘It will be a festival of football with two of the great European clubs and their supporters here. We welcome them.
‘I read about your West Ham fan Knollsy and it is thumbs up from me. He is a hero, but we don’t expect fans to be treated like that here by any thugs.’
Around 100 FC Victoria Plzen fans were surrounded by stewards and 10-feet high fencing
At full-time, the Slavia players took a knee in front of their fans to salute them for their support
Slavia fans Jan Segejovi (left) and daughter Katerina (right) are sure the final will be peaceful
Michael Skmaa (left) and Sebastian Stramsky (right) said they would support West Ham as they have Czech stars and former Slavia favourites Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek in their team
Katerina, 20, added: ‘It is sad that not all fans can get tickets and some Czech fans will be able to get them through applying, but we will watch on TV.’
Meanwhile, tickets for the final are already being offered today on the black market for more than £2,000.
A website called ‘Live Football Tickets’ put tickets up for sale at £2,283 to £ 8,750.00.
West Ham will begin selling their tickets from May 23rd through UEFA with the most expensive at €125 (£109) and the cheapest at €20 (£17).
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