On Tuesday March 29th Charlton Athletic posted the following statement on the official club website:
"Last week, in response to an unfortunate increase in incidents of disorder at matches involving Charlton Athletic, there was a meeting at New Scotland Yard between the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the club. From the meeting it was agreed to publish the following statement.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Charlton Athletic Football Club (CAFC) recognise the right of the fans to protest peacefully and both the MPS and the club continue to work together to ensure that protests take place in a way that is safe and lawful. Both the MPS and the club are in agreement that unlawful behaviour in the name of protest is not acceptable.
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. 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.
When offences are committed, the MPS may not necessarily arrest at the time but can look to gather evidence and arrest or summons at a later date where appropriate. There is excellent CCTV both in and outside the ground. The MPS have made recent arrests for offences at CAFC including pitch invasion and throwing a bottle at a protest outside the main entrance to the ground. There have been a number of arrests, charges and bans in recent weeks for offences by CAFC fans and there are a number of court cases coming up in particular in relation to the disorder at Crystal Palace."
The Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet (CARD) of which CAS Trust is a member published a response to this statement the following day:
“Two weeks ago the regime issued a mad statement in which it sought to pretend protesting fans were being manipulated by a small, disaffected minority, despite the massive evidence of its own failure on and off the pitch. Now they are linking peaceful protests with criminality, including explicitly hooligan behaviour at an away match months before CARD was even set up. It is a shabby and insulting attempt to cover up their complete inability to run a professional football club, which is the real reason thousands of Charlton fans have been moved to protest.”
The latest statement, issued on Tuesday, referred to “a number of criminal acts” at recent games, but CARD responded: “We challenge the club to publish the number of people charged for protest-related activity and the full extent of these criminal acts, which we understand they believe to include the throwing of beach balls towards the pitch at the last home game. On a literal interpretation of the Football Offences Act throwing the match ball back after it has been kicked into the crowd by the players could also be a criminal offence, but the CPS and the courts are likely to require the police to use common sense and proportionality in bringing charges.”
The club said its statement followed a meeting with the police at New Scotland Yard last week, and CARD revealed that it also attended a similar meeting at the same venue 24 hours later. The spokesperson commented: “Both meetings were set up at the same time. The police invited us and we had a constructive and amicable exchange of information with officers up to chief inspector level. We did so because the safety aspect of the protests is a priority for us. We also have no interest in unnecessarily diverting police resources from more serious matters.
"However, so that there is no misunderstanding we wish to make clear that the tone of that meeting is not reflected in the tenor of the statement, which the police neither disclosed to us nor consulted us upon. Had they done so we would have suggested they remove the gratuitous and offensive link to hooliganism at Crystal Palace last September, in particular.
“We understand that the police have a duty to enforce the law as they see it, but the club should treat supporters with respect and not characterise protestors as criminals in order to try to discredit them. The incidents at Palace were unacceptable to the vast majority of Charlton fans, including those behind CARD, but they had nothing to do with protests against the club’s ownership and there can no sensible suggestion that they did.
“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.”
Also on Tuesday, the club was forced to withdraw and apologise for an earlier public statement claiming that owner Duchâtelet had met supporters who are members of the club’s Target 20k committee for discussions during his visit to the ground in February. It eventually claimed that he had actually met unspecified “partners” of the club who are “first and foremost fans”.
The CARD spokesperson added: “All provocation by the football club will be met with the same considered but determined response by CARD. Protests will continue on Saturday, at the three subsequent home games and into the summer. We showed last week by picketing the sponsors’ event at the training ground and The Valley that we can take effective action away from matchdays and this useless regime should take no comfort from the fact that the close season is approaching. There will be no respite until this administration has gone."