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Page last updated at 21:47 GMT, Wednesday, 18 August 2010 22:47 UK

Luton in clear over York trouble

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York players shielded from pitch invasion

By Frank Keogh

Luton Town have been cleared of blame by the Football Association following the crowd trouble that marred their home game against York City in May.

A group of Hatters fans invaded the pitch and threw coins and missiles at the visiting supporters, forcing York players to cower in the stands.

The incident followed Luton's 2-0 aggregate defeat in their Blue Square Premier play-off semi-final tie.

But an FA spokesman has told BBC Sport no action will be taken against Luton.

Luton chairman Nick Owen said at the time that the behaviour of some fans had been "appalling".

Does this decision really send out the right message to the wider football world and those mindless individuals who choose to use football as a vehicle for violence?

York City communications director Sophie Hicks

Police say they arrested seven people at Luton's Kenilworth Road ground and 30 more in connection with disorder in the local area.

Officers were attacked with brooms and mops during violence near a DIY store. One man, from Norway, was later sentenced to 10 months in prison for violent disorder.

After receiving reports from both clubs and the police, it is understood the FA was satisfied Luton could not have done more to prevent trouble inside the ground.

The Hatters will be given advice on stewarding at future matches in an effort to avoid a repeat of the scenes which happened on Bank Holiday Monday, 3 May.

York City communications director Sophie Hicks told BBC Radio York: "We are totally surprised by the Football Association's decision not to penalise Luton Town for the violence which occurred at Kenilworth Road in May.

"The scenes after our play-off match were utterly frightening for our supporters and the team, who were attacked by the Luton fans who invaded the pitch.

"I have never witnessed such dreadful behaviour at a football match and I am astounded the FA has been so lenient.

As a club we stand by the stance we took in the days immediately after this game and will ensure that those involved will not be welcome at Kenilworth Road

Luton Town statement

"Does this decision really send out the right message to the wider football world and those mindless individuals who choose to use football as a vehicle for violence?

"Although York City were blameless in this incident, the violent scenes displayed by the Luton Town supporters have directly impacted the football club.

"North Yorkshire Police have now classified our forthcoming home game against Luton in March as a Category C fixture, which could potentially lead to police charges of £14,000. Also, as a direct result of the incident in May, Bedfordshire Police have requested that our fixture at Kenilworth Road in December is moved to a noon kick-off and is an all-ticket match.

"This will cause significant inconvenience for our fans and will result in an overnight stay for the team, which will lead to a further £1500 of costs to York City Football Club.

"We have raised all these issues with the Football Association and we await their comments. This decision is unjust for York City Football Club and our players and supporters who were subjected to this frightening ordeal."

A Luton club statement read: "Whilst this announcement vindicates the safety and security operation that was undertaken by the club, prior to and on the day of the game, it does not disguise the fact that the behaviour of a number of supporters on that day was not acceptable in any way.

"As a club we stand by the stance we took in the days immediately after this game and will ensure that those involved will not be welcome at Kenilworth Road.

"We will continue to support the police in their criminal investigations and will also look to issue additional club bans and/or behaviour contracts for those who we eel it is appropriate.

"The letter from the FA also gives the club a number of recommendations on ways to ensure incidents such as this do not happen again and also serves as a warning that this case could be considered should any similar event occur in the future.

"We are committed to ensuring that Kenilworth Road is a safe and welcoming place for all supporters and will continue our stance of identifying, and taking action against, any individual whose actions seek to undermine our position."

A pitch invasion had also marred Sheffield Wednesday's Championship relegation decider against Crystal Palace the previous day. The FA also decided not to press charges against both those clubs.

Luton have been in trouble with the authorities in recent years, and some fans had feared a further penalty following the May disorder.

The Bedfordshire club lost its League status in 2008 after suffering a 30-point penalty deduction for financial irregularities under previous owners.

In 2009 the FA handed then captain Kevin Nicholls a five-match ban, and fined the club £2,000 for failing to control their players after a stormy reaction to a last-minute penalty in a 3-3 draw with Bradford. Former manager Mick Harford was fined £1,000.

Luton regrouped following their relegation from League Two later that year, and harboured high hopes of a swift return after mounting a late charge to finish second in the Blue Square Premier.

Owen said extra stewards had been employed at Kenilworth Road on the day of the play-off semi-final second leg, which Luton lost 1-0, to help cope with a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000.

After the game, Owen apologised to York officials, who were perturbed by what happened.

"The way that the Luton supporters went after our players was quite animalistic and I think it was very, very dangerous," said York chairman Jason Magill.

606: DEBATE
TROJANHATTER

Some players said they were struck by coins, although City manager Martin Foyle praised stewards for helping to escort them to safety.

Clubs charged with failing to control their fans can face heavy penalties if found guilty.

In January, West Ham were fined £115,000 for failing to control their fans after three pitch invasions during a League Cup match against Millwall.

However, clubs can escape censure if they prove every precaution had been taken to prevent trouble.



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see also
Violence mars Luton loss to York
04 May 10 |  Non League
CCTV examined for match violence
04 May 10 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Luton 0-1 York City (agg 0-2)
03 May 10 |  Non League
York City 1-0 Luton Town
29 Apr 10 |  Non League


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