There was widespread disquiet among Charlton fans following the news that fans at the Walsall game with flags bearing the legend “Roland Out” were told to fold up the flags so that those words could not be seen. It was widely assumed that this was on police instruction.
CAS Trust therefore contacted West Midlands Police Football Unit seeking an explanation. We should put on record that the police response was prompt, open and friendly. They have confirmed that in fact the action was taken by Walsall stewards acting at the behest of the Walsall chairman. Not only were the police not involved but they expressed concern that the action could be counter-productive.
This is most welcome news, as it now reassures Charlton fans that police forces around the country should not have any issues with banners such as these. Unfortunately it appears that clubs can separately take such action, and the police will only advise. The Trust will consider what action it could take to safeguard fans’ right to peaceful protests both at away games and at The Valley in the coming months.
Here is the full text of the West Midlands Police response (with our emphasis in bold)
Thank you your e-mail regarding the Walsall v Charlton game on Saturday.
I was the Match day Commander on Saturday which means that I work in close cooperation with the club in particular the Safety Officer Mr O’Grady. I was however not aware of this incident on Saturday as it was not brought to my attention.
I have made some enquires with the Dedicated Football Officer for Walsall which is PC Spencer and have a response for you.
I can confirm that no Police Officers were involved in the removal of any banners / flags belonging to the Charlton fans.
However a flag was folded up by stewards, under the instruction of the Safety Officer following contact from the Walsall Chairman who wasn’t happy with what the flag displayed. PC Spencer (DFO) expressed his concerns that if stewards were removing flags and banners and he didn’t want this to lead to a rise in tensions. PC Spencer states that his objections were not listened to by the club and that said flag was folded up to obscure the ‘Roland Out’ wording.
PC Spencer continues that the Charlton supporters that then approached him to question the decision were nothing short of respectful and polite. Whilst they understood it was the stewards acting under their remit and not Police Officers at no time did they present any hostile behaviour towards us.
This was not a matter that the Police needed to get involved unless flags / banners contained wording which would cause alarm, harassment or distress, which they didn’t.
I hope this response provides you with a suitable explanation which you were seeking.
Inspector 6267 Steve Lloyd
Walsall Police Station