WHY DID METROPOLITAN POLICE FC BAN CLAPTON SUPPORTERS? EVERYTHING WE KNOW ON THE CUP FAN BAN

Metropolitan Police FC’s last-gasp ban on Clapton fans going to last night’s London Senior Cup tie sparked a wave of criticism far and wide.

In a statement, posted just before midnight less than two days before the game, The Met said that Clapton ‘suffers’ from having a fanbase who are ‘unacceptable’.

On Friday, Met Police FC had sent match information for Clapton fans travelling to the game. Just days later, they had changed their minds, revealing that came after ‘lengthy talks with Clapton’s officials’.

A strange move, for any club to brief against their own fanbase to ensure they can’t go to a game. Stranger still when Clapton officials have posted two anonymous ‘true supporter’ letters recently trying to appeal to fans to end their home game boycott.

Met Police FC declined repeated attempts to explain their reasons beyond their short statement, or even answer practical questions. However, Clapton chief executive Vince McBean suggested to a journalist the ban came after he discussed historic use of ‘pyro’ with them.

For background, there were two instances of ‘pyro’ at Clapton games early this season, out of 30 games so far. There have been no instances since early October, as fans elected to call a halt due to the threat of fines being levied against clubs.

Fan groups the Clapton Ultras and Real Clapton have both issued statements, with the clear suggestion that Mr McBean pushed for the ban in retaliation for fans blocking his attempt to liquidate the charity which runs the historic Old Spotted Dog ground (a case which is still ongoing in the High Court).

Whatever the reason, the police’s ‘presumption of guilt’ fan ban sparked an online backlash, with everyone from the Football Supporters Federation, to former Wales international goalkeeper Neville Southall, to Stand magazine, and even the UK’s deputy high commissioner in Hyderabad, India, wading in.

Clubs in the Essex Senior League and beyond who have hosted Clapton have also publicly stuck up for the fans, including Redbridge, Barkingside, FC Romania, Ilford, Sporting Bengal, Hullbridge Sports, Waltham Forest, West Essex and Welwyn Garden City.

In fact even the Met Police’s own manager Jim Cooper seemed to question the club’s decision, liking a tweet that said “Oh Met… you got this one badly wrong… Nothing wrong with the ‘Ultras’ at all! Sad” and followed it up with the cryptic message “#baffled’.

And Met Police FC’s own matchday programme – presumably printed before Monday’s decision – welcomed the Ultras and praised the atmosphere they create.

Other observers noted the social activities that the Clapton Ultras are involved in, including in the last few weeks organising foodbank collection, helping a soup kitchen, promoting and attending fundraising games for Waltham Forest, and arranging Christmas toy collection for kids who go without. Is that really ‘unacceptable’?

Some also pointed out that Clapton fans traditionally clean the terraces of every ground they visit, and sportingly applaud and cheer the opposition players at the end of every game. And others suggested there was an irony that a club called Met Police felt they were unable to police a low-profile cup game and had acted on poor intelligence.

The club originally consisted of serving police officers, but this rule was removed when the commissioner refused to sanction time off for the team and it has not had a serving officer play since 2011.

In the end, Met Police FC drafted in four stewards outside their Imber Court in East Molesey to prevent any travelling fans from entering the ground. A group of Clapton fans did make the two-hour journey from East London to sing their support from outside, but did not attempt to gain entry.

Metropolitan Police FC, who as a Bostik League side regularly host clubs with large fanbases such as Dulwich Hamlet and Wealdstone, eventually ran out 3-1 winners.

Pics on social media suggested the crowd barely reached double figures – it was eventually declared at 28.

But what was the ban really all about? We asked all the main bodies involved for their take in the last few days. Here’s what we found out.

Metropolitan Police FC

We made repeated attempts to find out some important logistical questions in the wake of the ban announcement, namely

  • Are you sticking by the decision to ban away fans?
  • How will you be enforcing the away fan ban?
  • What was the ‘unacceptable’ behaviour that prompted the action to be taken?

We did not receive a reply at all.

The only statement from the club remains the initial ban announcement from club chairman Des Flanders from Monday slamming the Ultras on the basis of information given by Clapton FC’s owners.

Mr Flanders said: “Following lengthy discussions with Clapton Football Club Officials and information received through Football Intelligence sources it has been decided that away fans will not be permitted entry to this game.

“Sadly for Clapton, they suffer from a group of ‘supporters’ who refer to themselves as Ultras and have established a pattern of unacceptable behaviour when visiting grounds for away matches in which Clapton are involved.”

Since Monday they have maintained complete silence, on social media and in response to emails. Even the score hasn’t been mentioned.

Clapton FC

We asked three questions…

  • Is it correct that Clapton officials put pressure on Met Police FC to ban away fans, as their club statement suggests?
  • What did Clapton officials say to Met Police FC to make them change their minds about welcoming fans (on Friday to banning them (on Monday)?
  • Do you want fans to come back to the club (as the recent anonymous ‘fan’ letters on the website suggest) or do you find them ‘unacceptable’?

The club did not reply, in line with their policy not to communicate with this website.

However, Vince McBean did give quotes to reporter Chris Dyer chasing the story for news agency SWNS.

In that, Mr McBean astonishingly claimed ‘30 flares’ were let off in a game – they were actually Diwali night sparklers at Sporting Bengal’s game against the Tons.

Mr McBean’s quotes in full said: “There is an element of our fans that let off a lot of flares.

“We get fined £250 each time that happens and even if it’s the away fans the home side still get fined. We just can’t afford that level of fine.

“We have been fined already for their actions for ‘failing to control our supporters and officials’.

“Club’s like the Met don’t have the resources to constantly watch the crowd – although they are called the police they are not actually the police.

“Our fans are boycotting our ground, so they all go to away games. Thirty flares were let off at one away game.

“The FA get involved, the county get involved, the league get involved and people say what the Hell is happening? They are all fed up.

“Fans have got to look to behave themselves and just deal with football issues and not getting involved in other things.

“We are about football not politics. I would like to see fans stick to football matters.

“The fans are at the heart of a club and we rely on them so much, but unless they are supporting the club you have a problem.”

Metropolitan Police

A spokesman told CFC News: “Thanks for offering us the opportunity to comment but we won’t be adding anything to the club’s statement.”

Clapton players

Club captain Jerry Jairette tweeted: “Starting to really hate these people behind the scenes of clubs who have power to ban fans.

“Football is for everyone whether watching playing or dealing with the logistics. You are part of what’s wrong with the modern game. No good…. #footballisforeveryone #footballforall”

A message from another player said: “I just want to let you know we the players really feel for you guys and we are so sad about this outrageous situation, honestly you guys deserve better and I really hope it won’t be too late when they realise your importance. I will make sure the boys put in a performance.”

Clapton Ultras

A statement was posted on the Ultras’ blog as news of the ban first emerged, which concluded: “The current regime under Vincent McBean is showing once again that he is at war with Clapton’s fans.

“His lurid allegations against us led to a similar ban by Southend Manor this season but numerous other Essex Senior League clubs have had nothing but praise for our conduct and behaviour.

“McBean, however, is more concerned with driving supporters away. He is desperately trying to turn back the clock five years to a time when attendances were barely in double figures, when there was no public scrutiny of his financial irregularities and nobody challenging his mismanagement of the club.

“Clapton’s opponents on Wednesday appear to have bought into McBean’s bullshit. In some ways, this isn’t really a surprise.

“Using poorly fabricated but otherwise convenient evidence is, after all, something of a speciality for the Metropolitan Police.”

Read their statement in full here.

Real Clapton FC

The members’ club which has blocked the attempted liquidation of Clapton’s ground also suggested the move was part of the general battle between Clapton officials and fans.

A statement issued on Wednesday said: “It speaks volumes that ‘Clapton Football Club Officials’ have been consulted on, and presumably supported, this decision.

“We believe that these unnamed ‘officials’ are demonising Clapton Ultras and other Clapton supporters over their support for our boycott of home games at The Old Spotted Dog.

“This boycott is the fans’ response to the shocking decision by the same ‘officials’ to force Newham Community Leisure Trust, the charity that controls the ground, into voluntary liquidation in order to try and avoid an investigation by the Charity Commission.

“A High Court injunction obtained by us is still in place and we understand publication of the Charity Commission’s investigation report is now imminent.

“We support, appreciate and encourage the efforts of Clapton Ultras to both support the team and organise community projects including collecting donations for food banks and supporting local causes and charities.

“Their stance against racism, homophobia, sexism and fascism should also be applauded, not demonised.

“This certainly doesn’t strike us as ‘unacceptable behaviour’.”

Read their statement in full here.

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CLAPTON FC FIXTURE UPDATE – CUTTING THROUGH THE CONFUSION

Supporters of top football clubs rightly get angry when games are switched for TV, sometimes with just weeks notice. However, at non-league level the situation can be, amazingly, even worse for fans.

Clapton FC had three games scheduled this week but with just a few days to go, all official sources had conflicting information on the dates, times, venues – or even if the games were happening at all.

Of the three opponents, two don’t have working websites and the other had no listing for the game. Clapton FC’s website, it turned out, had the wrong information for all three games.

Numerous attempts to get accurate information from the clubs went unanswered. However, thanks to a series of emails from the Essex Senior League we’ve finally received some official confirmation.

BASILDON UNITED (HOME)

The FA Full Time website had Clapton listed as playing Basildon United in the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy on Tuesday, December 6.

Manager Jonny Fowell even gave a full-page interview in this week’s Newham Recorder previewing the cup game against the high-flying Bees.

Confusingly, however, the Clapton FC website did not carry any mention of the game, and Basildon United do not have a website.

However, we can now confirm the tie has been postponed. Indeed it has already been rearranged for Tuesday, January 16th 2018.

MET POLICE FC (AWAY)

The situation over the London Senior Cup tie at Isthmian League Premier side Met Police FC was even more confusing.

The Clapton FC website had claimed the game was on Tuesday, December 5th. The FA Full Time website still claims it is taking place at AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow ground.

We can confirm, however, that the fixture is taking place on Wednesday, December 6th at Met Police FC’s Imber Court, kick-off 7.45pm.

However, two days before the game, Met Police FC have now said that away fans are NOT welcome. A Met club official said this was at the request of Clapton FC officials in collaboration with Metropolitan Police officers.

The Clapton Ultras blog has more details on this extraordinary decision. It is as yet unclear how this fan ban is going to be imposed.

SOUTHEND MANOR (AWAY)

Clapton’s next league game, away at Southend Manor, was listed on the Clapton website as having been switched to Old Spotted Dog with a 3.45pm kick-off. Southend Manor don’t have a functioning website this season.

However, we can confirmed the kick-off is a more traditional 3pm kick-off and it is still taking place at Southend Manor’s Southchurch Park.

FIXTURE LIST RECAP

As you can see, the Clapton FC website can’t be trusted with fixtures. Several fans have gone to the wrong venue on the basis of their duff information.
So where best for fixtures? CFC News has a fixture list here – but in fairness the Clapton Ultras’ website’s fixture list is the most reliable of all.
To recap, however, these are the fixtures for the rest of 2017…
  • 06/12 7.45pm Met Police v Clapton (London Senior Cup)
  • 09/12 3.00pm Southend Manor v Clapton
  • 16/12 3.00pm Clapton v Takeley
  • 23/12 3.00pm West Essex v Clapton
NOTE: We tweeted and emailed Clapton FC on numerous occasions regarding the fixtures and they did not reply – in line with their official policy not to communicate with us. However, they did correct the three inaccurate fixtures on their website on Friday in response, for which we are thankful.

CLAPTON DRAW WOODFORD TOWN IN LONDON SENIOR CUP – WITH MET POLICE AWAITING

Clapton have been drawn away at fellow Essex Senior League side Woodford Town 2017 in the first round of the London Senior Cup.

Woodford, the new name for the club formerly known as Haringey & Waltham Development, Greenhouse London and Mauritius Sports, play their games at Broxbourne Borough’s Goffs Lane ground in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.

The winner of that tie will visit Metropolitan Police FC away in the second round, then the winners would play Tower Hamlets or Tooting & Mitcham United at home in the quarter-final.

Whoever progresses from that tie would be at home to AFC Croydon, Barking, Beckenham Town, Cray Valley PM, Croydon, Glebe Premier or Greenwich Borough in the semi-final.

All dates are still to be announced but the first round must be played by October 7th and the second round by December 2nd.

Fellow Old Spotted Dog club Hackney Wick have drawn the plum tie of AFC Wimbledon at home in the first round.

The full draw is on the London FA website.

It means we’ve now got nearly all our cup draws. We’re just waiting on the FA Vase, after being handed a bye for finishing in the top five last season.

The rest of the cup draws are as follows…

FA CUP: Needham Market (h) on Saturday, September 2nd after wins over Norwich United (h) and FC Clacton (a).

LONDON SENIOR CUP: Woodford Town 2017 (a). Date TBC.

Followed potentially by Metropolitan Police (a) in second round, Tower Hamlets/Tooting & Mitcham United (h) in quarter-final, and AFC Croydon/Barking/Beckenham Town/Cray Valley PM/Croydon/Glebe Premier/Greenwich Borough (h) in semi-final.

GORDON BRASTED MEMORIAL TROPHY: Bye in first round. Wadham Lodge (a) on Wednesday, September 27 in second round.

Followed potentially by Basildon United/West Essex (h) in quarter-final and Barkingside/Great Wakering/Hackney Wick/Takeley (a) in semi-final.

ERRINGTON CHALLENGE CUP: Southend Manor (a) on Tuesday, October 10th in first round.

Followed potentially by Hackney Wick (h) in second round, Stansted/Sporting Bengal (h) in quarter-final and Burnham/Iflord/Redbridge/Sawbridgeworth/Wadham Lodge (a) in semi-final.

FA YOUTH CUP: Aveley/Thurrock (a), week of September 18th.

ESSEX SENIOR CUP: Did not enter like last few seasons, though before that the club entered both the Essex and London cups each season.

CLAPTON 2 GREENWICH BOROUGH 5: IN-DEPTH MATCH REPORT OF BOYCOTT-HIT CUP DEFEAT

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The two teams playing in front of an empty Old Spotted Dog ground in picture tweeted by Greenwich Borough

Journalist Adam Slater of Newham Recorder fame was one of just 28 people (away fans, officials and stewards but ZERO home supporters) at the Old Spotted Dog on Tuesday night as the Clapton Ultras boycott hit hard. Here’s his match report for those who stayed away or protested outside the ground.

Clapton FC exited another cup competition this time the London Senior Cup at the hands of Ryman League south outfit, Greenwich Borough, in a 2-5 loss on Tuesday night at the Old Spotted Dog.

Once again the game was played in front of an empty scaffold as the Ultras continued their boycott of home games, in defiance at the hike in ticket prices and overall leadership of the club by chief executive Vince McBean.

Clapton were looking to avoid being knocked out of a third cup competition in just two weeks, following losses to Barking in the Gordon Brasted Memorial trophy and Hullbridge Sports in the League Challenge cup.

Their opponents, Greenwich Borough, are a club on the rise having been promoted out of the Southern Counties Premier league last year and currently lying third in the Ryman South.

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Clapton fielded a strong line-up for the clash with Greenwich

Clapton began the game well against a Greenwich side that was littered with ex professionals and even an FA cup finalist, Peter Sweeney, who played for Millwall against Manchester United in the 2004 final.

The visitors soon settled into the game and came close to taking the lead early on from a corner, as Lanre Vigo was forced to clear a Michael Power header off the line.

Power wasn’t to be thwarted again on the 11th minute, as he was given space 25 yards out and promptly hit a screamer into the bottom corner to give Greenwich the lead.

The Tons got back into the contest on the 23rd minute in fortuitous circumstances. Ryan Reed’s initial shot across the keeper was saved with the ball falling to player manager and ex Leyton Orient forward Gary Alexander. His clearance was blocked by Domingo-Carrington and the ball rebounded in to make it all square.

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Only stewards visible in the usually rammed Old Spotted Dog

Often the difference between players in the Ryman League and players in the ESL are the amount of mistakes, and Greenwich’s second goal was evidence of this.

A nervy first touch from Clapton centre-back Jamie Lyndon allowed Power to pick his pocket and charge into the box. Lyndon in his attempts to make amends dived in rashly and brought the attacker down, conceding a penalty. Power stepped up and scored to restore Greenwich’s lead on 31 minutes.

Just moments later it was three for the visitors as Billy Dunn fired home just inside the box, after a cross was only half cleared.

The second half couldn’t have started any worse for the Tons as midfielder Siao Blackwood was sent off on the 49th minute following an off the ball incident.

With their opponents down to ten men, Greenwich were in cruise control and Clapton were looking to avoid embarrassment.

On the hour mark Greenwich got a fourth as Dunn rounded Robins after his first effort bounced back to him and calmly struck home.

Mohammad Eisa shot on the 85th minute fount the back of the net to make it five for the visitors before Nathan Cooke got a consolation goal for Clapton.

The loss means Clapton are out of of all cup competitions, meaning they can concentrate fully on their efforts to get promoted in the Essex Senior League.

Speaking after the game, captain Lyndon said: “The first 20 minutes we matched them, and we had a decent work rate.

“The penalty killed us a bit and then once we were down to 10 we picked it up a bit and to get that late goal showed we didn’t give up.”

“The atmosphere at the club has changed (since the boycott) but realistically every other team in the league struggles for fans and certain teams manage to go out and win most weeks. If we want to progress we can’t let it affect us.”

Up next for Clapton (4th) is a home match against Takeley FC (3rd) in the Essex Senior League, with a Ton’s win seeing them swap positions.

TRIALISTS GAME TONIGHT AND LONDON SENIOR CUP FIXTURE NEWS


Clapton will play a trialists game tonight at 7:45pm at The Dog. The opponents are Non League Chance, a team set up by Lee Flavin (ex Dagenham & Redbridge amongst others) to showcase the talents of non-league players looking for clubs. Entry is £3.

In other fixture news, Greenwich Borough have told Clapton FC News that they are ‘awaiting confirmation’ from the London FA that our London Senior Cup 1st round tie at The Dog will be played on Tuesday 1st November. All ties were supposed to have been played by Saturday 29th October so we assume this is why it needs approval. If it does go ahead, this will presumably mean that our game away at Ilford, currently scheduled for Wednesday 2nd November, will be postponed. 

CLAPTON TO PLAY GREENWICH IN CUP – MANAGED BY A FAMILIAR FACE

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Clapton have been handed a tough home tie against ambitious Greenwich Borough in the London Senior Cup – a trophy the Tons have won three times.

Greenwich are managed by ex-Leyton Orient, West Ham and Millwall hotshot striker Gary Alexander, with another former Os favourite John Mackie as his assistant.

Big-spending Boro are aiming to reach the Conferenice and fulfilled stage one of their five-year plan when they were promoted as champions of Step Five league the Southern Counties last season.

They now sit midtable in Ryman South after 1 win and 1 draw from 4 games in their first season back in Greenwich, having exited a groundshare with Dartford.

Former England striker Ian Wright famously started at Greenwich, EastEnders star Danny Dyer was once their chairman, while in 2014 the club almost pulled off the signing of Dutch superstar Edgar Davids after he left Barnet.

No date has been scheduled for the First Round tie yet, but it must be played by October 29 at the latest.

The winners will be at home against either Hanwell Town or Thamesmead Town in the next round.

The winner of that will be away against one of Haringey Borough, Warren Mfula’s new club AFC Croydon Athletic, Haringey & Waltham Development, and Fisher Athletic.

Clapton won the London Senior Cup in 1889, 1909 and 1911 and were runners-up in 1901, 1903, 1910, 1915, 1925 and 1989.

First Round draw in full

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