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Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 15:12 UK

West Ham to challenge FA charges

Fans invade the pitch
Fans invade the Upton Park pitch at full-time

By Frank Keogh

West Ham will join Millwall in mounting a strong defence against Football Association charges after crowd trouble at their Carling Cup match in August.

Both clubs are alleged to have taken insufficient action to stop missile throwing and violent, threatening and racist behaviour at Upton Park.

West Ham are also accused of failing to prevent their fans invading the pitch.

"It is our contention that the charges are not justified," said Lions chief executive Andy Ambler.

The Hammers face four charges, while Millwall must answer three.

A Millwall supporter was stabbed as fans clashed outside the east London ground and pitch invasions by West Ham fans followed each of their side's goals in the 3-1 extra-time win.

Police say they arrested 19 people in connection with disorder inside and outside the ground.

Thirteen of those have been charged with offences including pitch invasion, assaulting police, breaching banning orders, GBH and violent disorder.

West Ham's Carlton Cole and Millwall's Jason Price also alleged they were racially abused by supporters.

We do acknowledge the appalling behaviour of a minority of fans inside the stadium

West Ham spokesman

The clubs were given 14 days to respond to the charges but were given a seven-day extension until 19 October to file detailed responses.

They have now done that and are waiting for the FA to set a date for the hearing but a West Ham spokesman said they had "no indication" when that might be.

Millwall have asked barrister Jim Sturman QC to draft their defence.

"We will be pleading not guilty to all charges and defending our position vigorously," said Ambler.

"It is a frustration to us that we are committing significant resources of time, energy and money towards having to defend ourselves in the face of these charges."

A total of 200 seats and a toilet block in the visiting supporters' section of the ground are understood to have been damaged.

When the charges were announced on 28 September, Millwall said they were "shocked and disappointed".

"We maintain we did everything in our power in regard to ticketing arrangements for this game. We expressed our concerns in advance about ticket allocations and arrangements in general," said a spokesman.

"It was widely acknowledged that none of our supporters came on to the pitch and indeed the behaviour and forbearance of our fans brought praise from media observers on the night.

"Our question for the Football Association is what can Millwall Football Club do to control individuals' actions once inside our opponents' stadium?"

West Ham also maintain they did as much as they could prior to the fixture.

"In advance of the Millwall match, the club followed the strict advice of the relevant authorities at every stage of the planning process," said a club spokesman.

"That full co-operation continued on the night, with the club working closely with police on a carefully set-out plan that was initiated and approved by the independent safety advisory group.

"We do acknowledge the appalling behaviour of a minority of fans inside the stadium and, in conjunction with police, will continue to take strong and appropriate action against anyone found responsible."

An FA statement alleged the clubs did not ensure their supporters conducted themselves in an orderly fashion "in and around the ground".

Both West Ham and Millwall face charges of failing to ensure their fans refrained from:

- Violent, threatening, obscene and provocative behaviour

- Racist behaviour

- Throwing missiles, harmful or dangerous objects on to the pitch

West Ham are also charged with failing to ensure their supporters did not enter the field of play.

Details of possible sanctions if the clubs are found guilty have not been revealed, although it appears heavy fines are an option, with West Ham facing the biggest punishment.

A man is led away at Upton Park
A man is led away at Upton Park by police

Previous records of dealing with crowd behaviour will also be taken into account.

Police say the 44-year-old Millwall supporter who was stabbed left hospital several weeks ago, but inquiries are continuing.

Officers have been studying footage from 47 closed circuit television cameras inside Upton Park.

West Ham, who were later knocked out of the competition by Bolton Wanderers, received information from fans after photos from the night were published on their website and in a match programme.

The club issued 10 lifetime banning orders, including a number to supporters who identified themselves as pitch invaders.

Millwall complained before the match when their ticket allocation was halved to 1,500 following a police request.

Hundreds of supporters were thought to have turned up for the game without tickets.

It was the first time the east London rivals had played each other since April 2005.

Eyewitness reports suggested opposing fans threw bottles and bricks at each other and started small fires as police moved in to try to quell the disturbances outside the ground.

Inside the stadium, police and stewards battled to remove fans from the pitch throughout the match.

West Ham are likely to tell the FA they complied with requests made by the police-led safety advisory group, which met twice before the match, and point to the fact there were no direct clashes between the opposing supporters inside the ground.

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see also
FA to reveal Upton Park findings
20 Sep 09 |  West Ham
FA to probe Upton Park violence
26 Aug 09 |  West Ham
Millwall and Hammers slam racism
26 Aug 09 |  Football
London football violence probed
26 Aug 09 |  London
Mass violence mars London derby
25 Aug 09 |  London
Pitch invader carried young child
26 Aug 09 |  London
West Ham 3-1 Millwall (aet)
25 Aug 09 |  League Cup

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