Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Charlton Lane closure

Sue Parkes is the wife of long-serving club secretary Chris Parkes and has posted an explanation of the Charlton Lane closure last Saturday on Facebook.

'Charlton Lane Closure - Please Don't Blame CAFC!! All supporters who were inconvenienced after Millwall game due to the unannounced closure of Charlton Lane please don't blame The Club. Chris & I were very late leaving the Valley after the game and therefore didn't know about the problems until I read the postings on FB late Saturday evening, I had even suggested the route via the crossing to a couple of friends in cars.'

'Having read about the problems supporters encountered I asked Chris to try to find out why Charlton Lane was closed, firstly he checked his own copy of the Matchday briefing notes, then he spoke to Senior Safety Staff both sources confirmed that the road wasn't scheduled to be closed but more to the point CAFC Safety Staff were not aware that the road had been closed until Chris told them about it this morning. They hadn't been informed of the closure nor had they been party to it, therefore I'm saying the Club shouldn't shoulder the blame. Hopefully now they know what happened the problem will be looked into to prevent similar treatment of Home supporters in future.'

I had always thought that this was a last minute operational decision by the Metropolitan Police who thereby nearly created a public order problem for themselves. As people were chanting at the time, 'You don't know what you're doing!

The problem is that the programme gave the impression that the whole operation was a joint decision between the club and the police when it is entirely possible that the police put pressure on the club. The club has also been relatively silent on the issue which would not have happened in the past.

Aooarently Ransom Walk was opened relatively quickly. An Addick has commented, 'If Ransom Walk was open after 12 minutes, and presumably policing at that spot was carried out with a view to achieving opening ahead of schedule, why were elderly / infirm people not advised to wait a few moments? In the event, a good number made the long trek around the houses and as a result of the closure of Charlton Way took well over 30 minutes to get back to coaches on Woolwich Road. Proper communication could have saved this.'

'I was lucky enough to get across the level crossing before that route was closed. I was one of the first back to my coach. How is it that I met a good number of Millwall fans, not all looking amiable [surely not?], walking the other way along Woolwich Road?'

I have now read Mick Everett's statement on the club website. It's clearly useful to have this, even if it is somewhat belated. It does explain the context to the decisions taken, although the logical conclusion of his argument would be to play the matches against Crystal Palace and Millwall below closed doors, although then that would invite disorder on the surrounding streets. If I had known what I know now, I would not have gone to the game.

It appears that British Transport Police took the decision to close Charlton Lane on what they claim to be health and safety grounds. One wonders why this separate police force is allowed to continue to exist. Expertise on railway matters could easily be incorporated within existing forces. It is also revealed that even the club did not know that Coxmount Road was to be closed and this was the most foolish operational decision of all. Anyway, at least I know now that I should make a complaint to the BTP.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree. Waiting 25 minutes for the roads to be opened is hardly a major inconvenience for most people after all the game started early so why all the fuss.

Can you tell me how many people were injured and how many incidents of disorder were there in the surrounding streets after the game. I didn't see any and there were no problems on the train I took to Greenwich.

I would like to complement the Met on keeping fans safe and the streets free of anti social behaviour and disorder and am against those who keep attacking the Club and Police on this issue.

Wyn Grant said...

You are entitled to your viewpoint and I am entitled to mine. Sometimes people who spring to the defence of the police have some professional connection with them. Others of us are more sceptical. Obviously I don't have access to an evidence base on incidents that occurred in the surrounding streets. Hopefully, the issue can be taken up by some collective organisation such as the Trust, although whether the club would be prepared to engage in a dialogue remains to be seen.

Geoff said...

Nicely moderated, Wyn. Your previous correspondent gave no thought to those who can't climb hills, most of all in cold weather, but more pertinently are from the HOME club. We have all accepted these 30-odd years that AWAY fans will be kept back/diverted, but this is the first time I have known home fans to be penalised. Sue Parkes's clarification also illustrates the enormity of the cock-up.


Jack said...

Whatever the merits or otherwise of the tactics to prevent trouble, the problem here seems to be one of poor communication, there may well be reasons/intelligence that led to decisions being made to protect the public/prevent disorder, but these seem to have been poorly communicated. Over the years at away games I've seen some excellent policing and others where you feel like you are treated with contempt. Hopefully there's a solution to this, those involved talking to each other.

Wyn Grant said...

I think that Jack makes a good point. Information about the proposed arrangements and, as it turned out, incomplete information was given out some 24 hours before the game. If I had known further in advance, and had not put some arrangements in place, I would probably not gone at all - and I will not if we play them next year. Hopefully, there could be some dialogue between the club and the police, but whether either party is interested in that remains to be seen.

Jack said...


Having seen the CAFC websites latest, it looks like one road was closed at short notice by BTP re concerns re fans and possibility of them getting on the line at the level crossing, something they should think about for future games (and perhaps BTP should have raised before).
I must admit after another depressing defeat, the cold wet weather all i wanted to do was escape as quickly as possible, had we won, wouldn't have minded a longer wait and I don't think there would have been as many moans. Having been caught in fracas at the Valley with Millwall, Chelsea, Sunderland Spurs in the bad old days, would rather a wait than be dodging bricks.

Wyn Grant said...

I have read what is on the club website and altered my post accordingly. I have also made a complaint to British Transport Police, not that it will get me anywhere. But I still think they could have let a trickle of people filter through without endangering the level crossing.

Kap said...

I think communication is a big issue here. I was fortunate that I parked up top so was not held back. Based on information being pre supplied that actually reflected what would happen, I wonder how many people would have changed their parking plans to accommodate the close down. I am a fairly strong supporter of the police as it is not an easy job and most of them don't exude IQ, but with communication this could have been an excellent peace of policing, as it was it has only caused a hurrah of protest

Wyn Grant said...

Kap, I agree that the police have a difficult job, but they can make it more difficult for themselves. I would have been a bit more impressed if they showed any interest in the theft I observed and reported. I think that better communication was the essence. I have made a formal complaint to British Transport Police about the handling of Charlton Lane, although no doubt I will get a brush off in reply.