AN official investigation has been launched after hundreds of West Ham fans infiltrated the Blackpool seats at Wembley, sparking violence during the Championship play-off final.
Families say they were pelted with missiles while scuffles broke out between opposing fans.
Now Blackpool Football Club is looking into how some tickets got into the wrong hands and have apologised to those who had their day ruined.
One fan told how her grandson was left in tears on what should have been a memorable first trip to the home of football. Anne Furness, of Staining Road, Staining, said: “We spent more than £400 buying tickets for the family stand because it was our eight-year-old grandson’s first trip to Wembley and we wanted him to be safe.
“But we became aware of West Ham fans in the tiers above us. They were throwing batteries, fluid and spitting on us. One even threatened to jump down into our area where there were families with toddlers and babies.
“My grandson was petrified and crying that he wanted to go home. The Wembley stewards approached the families with babies and told them that it may be better if they left as they couldn’t protect them.”
Another Blackpool fan Mark Hodson said: “We had many young fans, several of them children, distressed and crying in our ends as they felt unsafe in what was supposed to be a safe environment for them to witness what should have been a very happy and enjoyable day for them.
“Many were attending not just their first play-off final, but their first ever time at Wembley.
“On what should have been a memorable day, many of them were sworn at, threatened, spat upon, and had objects hurled down at them from above.”
Witnesses said fighting broke out in the top tiers of the stadium following West Ham’s first goal.
Andrew Neal, of Neal’s Bakery in Cleveleys, said; “There were young children in tears and the stewards didn’t seem to know what to do.
“They stood by and other Blackpool fans had to calm the situation down. The West Ham fans were taken out onto the concourse but fighting broke out again.
“It took the shine off the day.”
Michelle-Louise Burrows, of Claremont Road, Blackpool, described some of the incidents as “terrifying.”
She said: “We were in level five which was the top tier and it was disgraceful that West Ham fans had been allowed into the Blackpool end.
“I’ve been a Blackpool fan for 36 years and gone to a lot of games, but this was absolutely frightening.
“There were women and children witnessing the fighting and they were very upset. It spoiled what should have been a memorable occasion despite the result.”
Keith Graham, who works as a steward at Bloomfield Road, said it marred the day for a lot of Seasiders fans.
He said: “The FA’s own ground safety regulations stipulate supporters should be seated in their own ends of the ground.
“I saw some Blackpool supporters moved from their seats, but they were in the right end, it was the West Ham supporters who should have been moved.”
Blackpool sold around 30,000 tickets for Wembley, while West Ham sold out of their full allocation of 38,000 tickets within days of them going on sale.
Blackpool FC secretary Matt Williams said the club had tried to ensure its allocation was only sold to Seasiders supporters and added an investigation had been launched into how some tickets were acquired by West Ham fans.
He said: “We have had a number of complaints from our supporters and we are working with the Metropolitan Police and Wembley Stadium to identify how West Ham fans got these tickets. We have kept a record of who purchased tickets.
“We apologise to those Blackpool fans affected by this. We rely on genuine supporters to buy tickets and we try to prevent any infiltration by making it previous purchasers only.”
A Football League spokesman said: “A number of segregation and crowd disorder issues have been raised with The Football League following Saturday’s Championship Play-Off Final between Blackpool and West Ham United.
“The Football League is currently in the process of reviewing these incidents and it would be inappropriate for The League to comment whilst this review is ongoing.”
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said there had been no major incidents or arrests at the game.