There was just 11 days to go until West Ham travelled to Rapid Vienna for their final Europa League group stage away game, everything seemed to be going as planned. Suddenly, the trip fell apart for the just over 1,700 Hammers fans planning to make the journey to Austria.
Firstly, UEFA announced that West Ham supporters would be banned from attending the match due to “crowd disturbances” at their last match away to Genk. Then a few days after we heard that Austria had entered a national lockdown and all tourists were banned.
This is the story of an away day that never was and how West Ham fans are now fighting to get their money back.
The West Ham fans that were planning to head to Austria for the Europa League tie versus Rapid Vienna are now facing challenges in getting their money back following the fan ban and the Austrian government introduction of a lockdown.
It seemed like a harsh ban as there wasn’t much trouble in the stadium reported and the timing was even worse given the fact that ironically, UEFA announced the ban just hours after tickets in the away end sold out to West Ham fans.
UEFA, with seemingly no care for the genuine supporters who had already booked flights, hotels and took days off work, the ban was not even expected by the club. Many fans wanted refunds but travel companies were refusing.
Green Street Hammers spoke to West Ham fan Martin Blow who had his tickets, flights and hotel purchased, he said, “I booked flights with Ryanair for me and my son for £220 per person.”
He added, “When I contacted them (Ryanair) they weren’t prepared to give me a refund or voucher. My hotel cost me £140 too.”
Austria Enters Lockdown
When hope seemed to be diminishing for many fans, there was a twist. Austria announced a few days later, in a decision that has sparked much debate, that the country would be entering a full lockdown after a spike in Covid-19 cases. As a result, no fans (even of Rapid Vienna) can attend the game and no tourists are allowed to enter Austria.
This switch in circumstances changed a lot for all the West Ham fans were who set to lose hundreds of pounds.
We spoke to Blow again and he said, “Fair play to Hotels.com (who he booked with) I chatted to them and despite it being a ‘non refundable booking’ they got me a full refund.”
However, Ryanair were “not prepared to do anything” he exclaims. “Their staff lie to get you off the phone, they said call back within 24 hours for a refund then today they said it’s not their policy, not an option. and cut me off.”
He continued, “I’m £440 out of pocket!”
We now know the reason he can’t get a refund is that the flight is still going ahead, seemingly with no passengers!
This is in order to not have to reimburse customers as technically the flight is still operational. At a time where protecting the planet is so important this seems irresponsible.
“Someone Had to Step Up”
Amongst all this chaos, on top of the ever-changing rules regarding testing to enter a stadium in Austria, information has been unclear to supporters with West Ham offering minimal support in clarifying fans concerns.
A West Ham fan, who goes by the name Edgware Bubbles/@KillerHeels_UK on Twitter has stepped up and been the voice of information regarding travel to these European away games.
The Twitter threads have been influential in assisting supporters throughout the confusing events.
We spoke to Edgware Bubbles about her exceptional work, “the threads are a consolidation of news and advice for people to use as they see fit.”
She said, “I decided to help as I have a good knowledge of consumer legislation, gained from running my own business. People don’t know about section 75 for example, and that PayPal can help with goods not supplied.”
About the club’s lack of clear information she states, “West Ham are staffed by kids without a clue and apart from offering a refund and making sympathetic noises, they’ve essentially walked away.”
West Ham have refunded everyone’s match ticket.
Advice On Away Days
On tips for West Ham’s future Europa League trips, Edgware Bubbles says, “I hope people will learn, albeit at an expense, to book travel insurance at the same time as their flights and to use a credit card direct with the airline wherever possible.”
Before ensuring she will be back researching and helping fellow West Ham supporters out for the next away day.
People wanted to thank Edgware Bubbles for her help so she has set up a Ko-Fi page where people can buy her a coffee as a thank you. A link to the page is here: