A determined minority of trouble-makers are giving the London Stadium a very public stress-test, finding weaknesses on match day that were never there in theory.
A cat-and-mouse game is going on, with supporters intent on causing a disturbance probing vulnerabilities with police changing their tactics in response.
That is the conclusion of those responsible for West Ham match-day security, including the police, the stadium operator, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the club itself.
They are now suggesting that the Stoke game was a turning point which saw a “maturing” of plans when trouble-makers and security staff reached an equilibrium that saw an end to the kinds of embarrassing scenes that marred the Chelsea match.
The London Assembly, which is examining the issue, was told that the hardcore minority were creatures of habit – and they were in the process of exploring and settling into “new norms”.
Commander BJ Harrington, who oversees football policing in the capital, said:“We are learning those challenges and we are learning to adapt our tactics – for example, which pubs certain supporters are beginning to use – which allows us to put control around those pubs.
“When those norms of behaviour have been set out by the fans we can understand how to react to those threats and prevent those issues. They are learning so we are learning.”
London Legacy Development Corporation chief executive David Goldstone said the club was 11 matches into a 99 year relationship while West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady said: “We all accept that they were teething problems, which there always are when you move to a new stadium.
“We have learnt from some of the issues, we have implemented strong and decisive action and we are adamant that we want to eradicate it. “
She pointed out there had been 18 arrests in 11 games. “We’re coming to the half way point at the season Arsenal had 60 arrests for the whole season last year and Manchester Utd had 57 arrests.”
The London Stadium also presented “unique” challenges in the capital because of its openness and accessibility inside and out, said Cmdr Harrington.
He said: “The Olympic Park is a wide open expanse – most stadia in London have natural segregation by streets, by furniture, by cars – here you have multiple points of entry and in policing terms very difficult to segregate.”
Chief executive officer of operator London Stadium 185 Linda Lennon said: “It’s easier for people to get round the stadium so one of the things we’ve started to introduce is much more hard checking of tickets.
“The actual segregated areas have been extended, we’ve created a sterile area so supporters can’t throw things down on other supporters and we’ve created a dedicated segregation route outside of the stadium.”
The chief operating officer of Westfield Stratford City Peter Miller said retailers had noticed a drop in sales on match days but there was no evidence shoppers were being deterred.
Asked whether the London Stadium simply wasn’t suitable for football, Karren Brady said: “The stadium has been designated a Uefa Category Four status, the highest possible, which means that it can, for example, host a Champion’s League Final so it is absolutely suitable.”