The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have confirmed they are not pursuing a criminal investigation into Addicks supporters who launched beach balls onto the pitch during the recent game against Middlesbrough.
The MPS and Charlton Athletic Football Club released a joint statement earlier this week responding “to an unfortunate increase in incidents of disorder at matches involving Charlton Athletic.”
The statement then warned that, “a number of criminal acts in recent games have taken place and the club are working with the MPS to identify offenders and, where appropriate, bring them before a court for prosecution and/or seeking bans.”
It continued with, “a reminder that the following is illegal and will be investigated: entering the field of play or adjacent areas (i.e. pitch invasion); the throwing of any objects in the ground; racist or homophobic chanting; carrying or using pyrotechnics inside or outside the ground.”
The wording of the statement led some Charlton fans to believe they may be investigated and prosecuted for taking part in a demonstration, led by the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet (CARD), which involved hundreds of black and white beach balls being thrown onto the pitch to disrupt the first minute of the game against The Teesiders on 13th March.
But an MPS spokesperson has told Charlton Live that this will not be the case.
“We will always seek to take a proportionate approach to the investigation of suspected offences,” explained the spokesperson after Charlton Live made an approach for clarification.
“As part of this approach, we have not pursued a criminal investigation into those who recently threw beach balls onto the pitch. However, every incident is dealt with on a case by case basis, so police may take action on another occasion depending on the specifics of the circumstances at the time.
“Policing decisions made in the context of football matches must always bear in mind the impact that disruption to the match could have, particularly in relation to opposing fans.”
They added, “The MPS upholds the right of those to peacefully protest. A dedicated police liaison officer, an officer who is highly experienced in working with demonstration groups, has been and will continue to be in dialogue with any one or group who wishes to hold a protest.”
CARD, a collection of Charlton supporters who campaign for the club’s Belgian owner Roland Duchatelet to sell up, had reacted angrily to the joint statement from the club and the MPS.
They described it as “insulting to thousands of decent, law-abiding Charlton fans” who have joined peaceful protests, as it appeared to link peaceful protests with unrelated criminality.
The statement including a reference to an incident during the Capital One Cup game with Crystal Palace in September, three months before CARD was formed.
In a statement released on Wednesday, a CARD spokesman said, “CARD has not been responsible for every protest and we acknowledge that a very small number of unacceptable acts have been committed by others, but the overall depiction of events in the statement is seriously misleading because thousands of people have protested peacefully match after match without incident.
“In addition, we have repeatedly made clear, including in published material, that we do not support protests based on gender or nationality. We completely reject any attempt by the regime to paint the protests as racist or xenophobic in origin. We are protesting about its incompetent and increasingly deceitful conduct of the club’s affairs.”
You can hear the Charlton Live team discussing the various statements released recently on this weeks’ The Big Match preview podcast – Click here to listen