Gaming Editor Louis Wright reports on the crowd skirmishes that overshadowed the local FA Cup derby between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion
Local derby games have always had an intensity to their atmosphere, but no other rivalry in football seems to have the consistently vitriolic outcomes that Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) and West Bromwich Albion (West Brom) have when the teams clash. The 4th round FA Cup match on 28/01/24 is no different from this troubled history, seeing as the first match between the sides in 3 years descended into brawls between fans in the crowd at the Hawthorn stadium.
Clashes between fans began around the ’79-minute mark when Wolves player Matheus Cunha scored the team’s second goal of the match. Before West Brom could kick off and resume play, a fight began at the Birmingham Road stand of the stadium, near the pitch. Match reporters claimed that there were Wolves fans present in the stand, therefore causing unrest with the West Brom supporters due to the long history of rivalry between the clubs.
Play was officially halted by the referee when police attended the stand and had to remove fans from the crowd, including a child who was placed onto the pitch for protection. This is especially pertinent to the players, as their families (including children) were seated in the stand.
Alongside this, a second skirmish broke out at the Smethwick stand, requiring more police attention. Once again referring to the match reporters, police batons were used at both scenes and could not be broadcast due to the imagery, and all paramedics within the stadium were required on hand to treat injuries.
This resulted in all players from both sides leaving the pitch and the game being completely stopped until further notice as police attended the crowds to ensure no further outbreaks occurred. Players returned to the pitch 25 minutes later, with the match restarting. Kyle Bartley (West Brom) was substituted after being seen removing his children from the Birmingham Road stand.
Wolves and West Brom have an extensive history of ‘toxic rivalry’, with both being Black Country Sides. The fighting within the crowd in the most recent match between the two is reminiscent of the 1970s when this rivalry reached its most violent with crowds consistently bringing weapons to the games in order to incite violence post-match. Whether there is a consequence for either side for their fan’s behaviour is yet to be seen.
The final score after two minutes of added time was 2-0 to the away team Wolverhampton Wanderers.
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