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.