Should you be thrown out a pub for wearing a West Ham scarf?

Written by Emily Pulham

West Ham’s much hyped stadium move hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. The team are leaking goals, the fans haven’t been getting along – and to add insult to injury, they can’t even drown their sorrows in some of the local establishments in their new home. What follows is a tale of mystery, of intrigue and of woe – it’s the story of how I spent a bunch of money in a pub, played by all the rules and then got handed a pre-printed piece of paper that assumed I was a rule-breaking hooligan and told me not to return later.

On the night of the Accrington Stanley game (which West Ham WON by the way, please make a note of that), myself, my claret and blue “2005 Play-Off Final” football scarf and my four acquaintances were trying out a new pub in order to find ‘the one’. On this fateful night, we settled on the Crate Brewery, near to Hackney Wick station. The pub was busy, but half of us found seats at a table we shared with a mix of people – some of whom were attending the game, some of whom were not.

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We purchased beer from said pub, and were drinking whilst talking when a staff member from the pub gave me printed sheet of paper.

Initially, I presumed it was a dessert menu – excellent thing, dessert – but instead it was a rather strange note ‘welcoming’ me to this new pub. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very welcoming. In fact, it was rather rude.

Now, I have absolutely no objections to pubs having rules. All pubs do, and they have an absolute right to ensure they are running a safe establishment. If they chose not to have chanting on the grounds of their establishment and don’t particularly care for football fans, for whatever reason, they are welcome to do that (and we can respect that and simply load up the cash cow and lead it to a different barn.) Not a problem.

Where I question them is with how they’ve addressed the communication of their preferences – particularly the stereotypical assumptions and patronising statements provided within the letter and with regards to their criteria for entry. Where I am frustrated is with how the pub waited for me to make a purchase before ensuring I knew that I, specifically, was not welcome to return later on.

As previously mentioned, I was in a West Ham scarf and claret top and was the only one dressed as such in my group of friends – according to the letter, I would then not be allowed back into the pub after the game as I was wearing “West Ham merchandise” (presumably not to disturb all the wholesome families still there at 10pm.) It seemed an unusual thing to be a well-behaved patron of a place and singled out to be given a piece of paper ensuring you know that your custom is not welcome again this evening.

I also wonder where you would draw the line on explaining how pubs work in distributed literature. For example, I’ve now been informed that I shouldn’t bring my own beer in but I thought that was an understood concept of a pub, much in the same way that we are meant to urinate in pub toilets rather than on pub couches. It is an extremely strange customer experience to spend £30 on beer at an establishment, only to then be singled out and slipped a pre-printed piece of paper warning me not to bring beer purchased off the premises into the pub. It’s patronising and unnecessary – but it’s also indicative of what might be a larger, underlying issue here.

I’m concerned that there’s an assumption that because West Ham fans have spent 112 years drinking in an area of lower socioeconomic status that we are ignorant of basic etiquette. We are not feral; nor are the local establishments that we frequented in our previous home, nor are our previous neighbours.

We are not unaccustomed to societal norms and social contracts. In fact, we are a fiercely loyal community, and when we find a pub we like, we display a loyalty to that place that you wouldn’t even find in most marriages nowadays.

There will absolutely be West Ham fans that break some of the rules and cause trouble, and I understand that this can contribute strongly to prejudice, but every bunch of apples in the world has bad ones in it. This is not unique to West Ham fans, nor is it unique to football fans in general – but please don’t assume we are all troublemakers. Most of us just genuinely like the sense of community that pre and post match drinks provides and happily spend money to engage in that community.

It’s incredible that an establishment in an area of London which has ‘benefitted’ from the boon of gentrification feels it can apply snobbery and ignorance to a fellow East End establishment. West Ham aren’t a new addition; they’ve survived WWI, WWII, and Avram Grant. West Ham are East London; East London is West Ham, and to be told we aren’t really welcome to come as we are, in our own part of the city, if we identify as being part of a specific East End mainstay football club, is perplexing.

For me, I’ll choose to spend my time and money in any number of the excellent establishments that have welcomed the West Ham faithful with open arms.

And when I finally find “the one”, it’ll be a place I visit until I die.