West Ham gala dinner wrecked as Demba Ba snubs autograph after relegation

17 May 2011 08:52
ShareWest Ham's disastrous season plumbed new depths last night when a brawl allegedly erupted at the club's swanky end-of-season bash.

Reports suggest that trouble flared at the Grosvenor House Hotel after striker Demba Ba allegedly refused to sign an autograph for a supporter.

Scotland Yard said police were called to the ?275-a-head dinner at the Park Lane hotel in central London.

Flashpoint: Police talk to security staff at the London Grosvenor House hotel after trouble flared at the West Ham end-of-season gala dinner

A witness said: 'There were a couple of supporters who were asking Demba Ba for his autograph. But he turned round and said he was too tired.

'The fans said they were season-ticket holders and didn't deserve to be spoken to like that. Then it all kicked off.'

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: 'We were called at 9.15pm to reports of a disturbance at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. Officers attended. There were no offences alleged and no arrests.'

Ba reportedly said he was 'too tired', and his comments sparked a brawl.

The party was attended by players and executives who were rounding off the end of a disappointing season which saw them relegated from the Premier League and lose their manager, Avram Grant, who has been sacked.

Calm before the storm: west Ham co-chairman David Gold arrives at London's Grosvenor House hotel for the club's end of season gala dinner on Monday night

Officials from the club tried to brush off the incident, claiming the supporters involved were known troublemakers. But the ugly scenes piled more misery on the club just 24 hours after losing their top-flight status.

Security guards rushed to defuse the situation as punches and plates were thrown and tables turned over, before the unruly supporters were ushered out of the room.

Celebrity supporter, Sky Sports presenter Ben Shephard - the host for the evening - and co-owner David Gold made desperate appeals for calm while fans fled the hotel to avoid any harm. Two police cars were sent to the scene.

West Ham players had been instructed to attend the event, which attracted 750 guests, and warned by letter they would face a fine of a week's wages if they failed to comply, although Carlton Cole and Robert Green were excused - Cole because of a neck injury and goalkeeper Green because his wife is due to give birth at any time.

Central figure: Striker Demba Ba is said to have faced abuse from supporters at the dinner after refusing an autograph

The incident was an unwelcome distraction from appointing a new manager to replace Avram Grant, who was sacked little more than an hour after Sunday's 3-2 defeat by Wigan, which ensured relegation.

Co-owner David Sullivan broke his silence on the sacking, saying: 'Avram is a lovely man but the results speak for themselves. It was a bad selection by the board.

'We all share some of the blame for the results - the board, the manager and the team. However, the team can only play the tactics and formation they are asked to play.

'We want a manager who will get the best out of the squad and foster a strong team spirit.'

The club have drawn up a short-list of five managers they believe can lead them back into the Barclays Premier League. Martin O'Neill remains the preferred choice, but Sportsmail can reveal that Norwich City's Paul Lambert, Cardiff's Dave Jones and out-of-work bosses Sam Allardyce and Steve McClaren are also being considered.

Even though O'Neill rejected their advances in the bungled attempt to replace Grant in January, Gold and fellow co-owner David Sullivan remain convinced that he is the best option. But the former Aston Villa and Celtic manager is sure to be alarmed by the part they have played in West Ham's demise.

No worries: Mark Noble and Robbie Keane are all smiles as they leave the dinner in a taxi

The reasons Sullivan gave for the failure of club directors to attend the recent match at Manchester City -he said he was sick of watching the team's poor away form - was also seen as a PR own goal.

In West Ham's favour is the fact thatO'Neill's continuing dispute with Villa over his departure last August should soon be resolved. A Premier League managers' arbitration panel isdue to hear the case this week.

Former England manager McClaren is also considered a serious contender, but he distanced himself from the job last night.

'It is very flattering to be linked with a club of West Ham's size and historic stature, also one that has tremendous fans,' McClaren told Sky Sports. 'However, at this moment in time I do not wish to be considered for the position.'

Kevin Keen will take temporary chargeof the team against Sunderland on Sunday, but Gold said the club would appoint a replacement for Grant as soon as possible.

 Explore more:People: Martin O'Neill, Robert Green, Paul Lambert, Carlton Cole, Sam Allardyce, David Sullivan, David Gold, Ben Shephard, Steve McClaren Places: London, Cardiff, United Kingdom Organisations: Scotland Yard

Source: Daily_Mail