Image above: Brentford v Liverpool; photograph Liz Vercoe
When planning permission was given for Brentford FC to build a new stadium alongside the South Circular, there were rumblings from residents, uneasy at the prospect of football hooligans overrunning Strand on the Green like a misplaced pitch invasion.
When Brentford Chairman Cliff Crown braved the Strand on the Green Residents Association a few years ago he was asked about it. “I do like to have meals at Annie’s myself, yes” the immaculately suited chairman replied, sweetly dodging the inference put on the term ‘football fans’ that those such as himself were not the ones the residents were worried about.
We’re eleven matches into the first season played at the new stadium, the team has been promoted to the Premier League and Chiswick has seen Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea shirts gracing the streets. Has anybody died? Punch ups? Foul mouthed rants? None reported so far.
We had heard that certain pubs would be designated ‘home’ pubs and others assigned to away fans. In the stadium the two are segregated and some areas around football clubs like to keep it that way outside the ground as well.
Matt Smith has been finding out how this works – which supporters end up where and why and how is it working so far in the pubs around the new stadium.
Image above: Brentford Community Stadium; photoraph Liz Vercoe
Drinking in the Brentford Community Stadium
Brentford has the reputation of being a friendly family club and since they’ve only been able to welcome fans to their shiny new stadium from the start of this season, they are playing it cautiously. Not only are the fans segregated within the ground but so far away fans have not been allowed to drink alcohol in the ground. The Norwich City match on 6 November will be the first one at which they will be able to buy alcohol at the stadium.
“We’ll review it and see how it goes” their community liason spokeswoman Sally Stephens told us.
Brentford FC brief their ‘Here to Help’ staff about the nearby pubs so they can advise supporters where the nearest pubs are – The Express Tavern is the nearest to the ground, One Over the Ait the most popular, as the nearest riverside pub, those along Strand on the Green and around Kew Green, and those near Gunnersbury station: The Pilot and The Gunnersbury.
Their staff do not offer recommendations, unlike Fulham, where away fans are guided to their designated pub.
“If you’re following your team to an away match you do like to meet up beforehand with the comfort and security of being with your own team” says Liz Vercoe.
Long-term Brentford supporter Robert Whale, who’s followed the team for 57 years, since 1964, says he looks in the good beer guide to see where to go. In his experience most pubs will tolerate away fans as long as they don’t cause trouble.
“You can sometimes sense the atmosphere is not great when you enter a certain pub, but usually you strike up conversations with fans because we’re all fans together”.
Bill Hagerty, contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group and guest contributor to The Chiswick Calendar, said:
“Brentford has the reputation of being a family friendly club. Let’s hope we don’t get it spoiled by some renegade bunch from another club. It’s all been very good natured so far, and we’re hoping [separation] won’t happen here because it’s not necessary.”
Image above: A guide to the area’s away-friendly pubs.
Thus far it has fallen to the local pubs to offer away fans hospitality. It’s usually down to the pub manager or group operator to decide whether to accept home or away fans. None of the pubs near the ground have a specific policy for being either ‘home’ or ‘away’ though they may decide not to accept away fans decked out head to toe in an away team’s colours if they decide their dress is ostentatious to the point of provocation.
Strand on the Green
The furthest pub along Strand on the Green is the Bull’s Head. General Manager Barbara Smith hadn’t been expecting too many football fans as it’s a bit of a hike, but she’s seen a steady flow of customers coming for lunch before the matches. One fan even asked her if it was ok to wear their club’s strip inside the pub, which she thought was “rather sweet”. So a thumbs up from the Bull’s Head so far.
Likewise John, General Manager of the Steam Packet has had no problems and is happy to welcome all comers.
Image above: One Over the Ait; Steam Packet; Bell & Crown
Fuller’s pubs – One Over The Ait & The Bell & Crown
One Over the Ait started out positioning itself as an ‘away’ pub, but after complaints from residents fearing the hordes, they decided against. Rebranding as a ‘home’ pub didn’t really work either, as home fans still tend to drink where they always have.
Brentford’s old ground used to be in the happy position of having a pub in each corner: the Princess Royal (now closed), the New Inn (now the Brook), the Royal Oak and the Griffin. Brentford fans have the advantage of being well, at home, so they know where they like to drink already.
One Over The Ait has settled on accepting all and any fans providing they’re well behaved, and the same goes for the Bell & Crown, the nearest pub to Kew Bridge on the Strand on the Green side.
“Really it all depends on the advice given by the the police” the Operations Manager for some of west London’s Fuller’s pubs, Mark Viner, told The Chiswick Calendar.
“A lot of the pubs in the area belong to a WhatsApp group which has been put together by the local community policing … and they give guidance on any sort of intelligence they might have, fans numbers that are expected to attend – both home and away. The ultimate aim is to give all fans a safe experience”.
Police let pubs know well in advance of tickets sold and intelligence picked up from social media sites so pubs can prepare. Depending what the police say, One Over The Ait sometimes ask fans to make sure their colours are covered up and check tickets to see which team they support.
“You just make judgement calls. If there’s a group of lads who turn up and they’re already steaming, then you’re probably not likely to let them in, but they’re unlikely to get into many pubs. That would be the same for any day if a group of lads turned up drunk you’d be a bit more cautious because part of our licensing objective is to provide that safe environment.
“We have security on the doors depending on the numbers, which is why the police let us know what the fan numbers are. Our door security team already have all the dates for all the fixtures, the only ones they don’t have are for cup games”.
Mark said there has been little if any trouble and they have had all sorts of fans. Even when Chelsea played here. (Their reputation has changed over the years. A recent survey of football fans found Chelsea fans ‘the quietest and the poshest’ and Liverpool ‘the most arrogant’).
Image above: The Gunnersbury pub
The Gunnersbury pub is run by the Mogliany family, who have more than 30 years’ experience in event management and 40 years promoting live music.
Right opposite Gunnersbury station, they are the first and most obvious pub for arriving fans. The pub’s General Manager, Richard Mogliany, offers his insight as to why Chiswick need not fear rampaging fans.
“There are no issues with Premiership clubs because tickets are like hens teeth given the capacity for away support at the new stadia. Therefore you are only getting those from a priority system at their home club, therefore you are getting football people rather than rowdy fans.
“That said, they can be loud even in a mixed support venue such as ours. Still, we do grade games on past reputation of clubs for security numbers. To date we have had no issues. To ask people not to wear their colours is daft and goes nowhere towards preventing anything. One sees more issues with England doing well and younger men thinking it’s clever to be “bare chested”. That we would never tolerate.”
TfL’s “ridiculous ‘make them wait’ poliy”
Richard instead criticised Transport for London for the station closures which occur during games sometimes. For the last home game Brentford was dealing with the ‘perfect storm’ of the closure of the M4 for roadworks, no trains to Kew Bridge station and no service on the District Line either. If anything were guaranteed to wind up fans trying to get to a match and not waste their very expensive ticktes, that would do it.
“[As well as station closures, there’s the] ridiculous “make them wait” for one hour policy at Gunnersbury station” said Richard. This has led to issues with home and away supporters with TfL staff being accosted because of ill-perceived ‘safety issues’.
“To close this station for that reason begs the question: why is it safe for thousands of Business Park workers everyday of the week for the last ten years and not safe enough for hundreds of fans on a week end (hundreds because the away allocation is only 1700 and not all come through Gunnersbury)?”
The WhatsApp group set up for local licensees helps pub managers prepare for crowds, warning eachother of what is coming their way. Richard said this is useful during scheduled football games, but when other, unscheduled events occur it can be challenging.
“There was more hassle caused by last weeks “anti-vax march” and the previous week’s Gunnersbury Park music fest because of antisocial behaviour vomiting, littering, defecating etc. No notice is given to us either by the police or the local council, so as we can prepare.”
Image above: a London Irish game at Brentford Stadium
London Irish – how do they compare with Brentford matches?
The Brentford Community Stadium is also home to London Irish, but for rugby the separation of fans in the stadium isn’t something they do, at least not yet. A spokesperson for London Irish told The Chiswick Calendar that while the number of away fans has generally been increasing since the opening of the new stadium, they don’t see separation of clubs being implemented any time soon because the number of fans which rugby games attract “aren’t comparable” with the numbers who go to football.
“We accomodate as many away fans as possible. If fans do ask us about local pubs in the area, then we usually recommend the pubs which we have partnerships with – which is various local pubs in the area so we point them in the direction of those.”
London Irish are partnered with 13 pubs in Brentford & Chiswick and certain pubs offer ticket holders special offers such as The Magpie and Crown’s matchday offer – all ale £4.00 a pint and their non-matchday offer is 10% off all food. The full list of London Irish pub partners is:
One Over The Ait, The Steam Packet, Connolly’s, Sun Inn, Coach & Horses, The Watermans Arms, Queen’s Head, The Brook, The Botanist, The Griffin, The Magpie and Crown, The Lamb and The Brewery Tap.
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See also: Brentford 1, Leicester City 2
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