The two clubs who banned Clapton fans from their games lost a four-figure sum, our calculations reveal. But was it it all based on outdated or misleading information?
To recap, Essex Senior League side Southend Manor banned away fans and groundhoppers twice in a month, with Met Police FC doing the same for a London Senior Cup tie.
Those decisions sparked a wave of negative publicity for Southend, Met Police and Clapton, with hundreds of critical tweets posted along with articles in newspapers and magazines and on blogs and podcasts.
Met Police FC have even taken the extraordinary step of locking their tweets, so the public can no longer view them.
As well as this loss of goodwill from across the footballing world, our calculations suggest there was a big financial hit.
But what really sparked it? Here we unpick the reasons behind those bans including whether a dodgy dossier provided by Clapton FC was to blame.
Southend Manor announced their two bans, for a cup and league game, were due to fear of ‘fines being invoked against the home club should any pyrotechnics/flares be let off during a game’.
Perhaps that seems understandable, since two Essex Senior League clubs have been threatened with huge fines when ‘pyro’ (coloured smoke) was used by visiting Tons fans early on this season.
It’s documented that such ‘pyro’ was used at two Clapton games in the 30 played so far this season, though never while the game was in play.
However, it should be pointed out there have been no instances of ‘pyro’ at all – before, during or after games – since early October 2017.
This is because fans elected to call a halt due to the threat of fines being levied against cash-strapped clubs. All Essex Senior League clubs were made aware of that decision – including emails to Southend Manor on more than one occasion.
Incidentally, there have been no instances of ‘pyro’ during Clapton games since September 2015, more than two years, due to the threat that refs would stop the match.
In fact, there has been more ‘pyro’ used at Essex Senior League games not involving Clapton than at those involving Clapton.
Fans of five ESL clubs – which we are choosing not to name – have used ‘pyro’ over the last two seasons alone, completely unconnected to Clapton.
We have spoken to several of these clubs privately and they have revealed they were not fined for ‘pyro’ use, It seems the fines only apply when Clapton are involved.
Regardless, Southend Manor publicly announced they feared that Clapton fans would use ‘pyro’, despite being assured by fans it wouldn’t happen.
But why? Perhaps they just didn’t trust the information provided by Clapton Ultras. Or perhaps the conflicting briefing from Clapton FC officials had more sway.
An article posted on the Clapton FC website on December 8th provides a revealing insight into what sort of misinformation the club has been feeding opposition officials.
In an extraordinary and lengthy trashing of the club’s fans, chief executive Vince McBean craftily uses a screenshot of a tweet dated Nov 16th showing ‘pyro’ after a Clapton game.
The clear implication to anyone seeing that would be that it happened a few weeks ago. The truth is this was a tweet from November 16th 2016, over a year ago.
Met Police FC
Mr McBean also admitted in a dossier on the club’s website that Met Police FC’s ban came after discussions with ‘Clapton officials’.
Mr McBean insists Met Police FC phoned him, not the other way round as we suggested in a previous article. We are happy to clarify that, though we’re unsure why that’s significant.
Sometime soon after this discussion, Met Police FC reversed their previous welcome to fans and instead issued a ban and a statement slamming the Ultras’ behaviour as ‘unacceptable’.
In Mr McBean’s article about the Clapton Ultras on his website, he highlights three instances of bad behaviour over the last five years that Met Police FC were made aware of.
Two of these instances took place at away games, where neither Mr McBean nor any other Clapton officials were present.
Two of them also involved people attending one of their first games, so it is clear Mr McBean takes no responsibility for matchday issues himself, pinning everything entirely on the ‘Clapton Ultras’.
It was also extraordinary to read Mr McBean describe the organised attack on Clapton fans by far-right hooligans hurling racist abuse as ‘fights between supporters resulting in media coverage.’
Nevertheless, while 99% of games have been incident free, it is a fact that Mr McBean did manage to dredge up three unsavoury incidents from across the last five years.
So does that mean the Met Police FC had a point not to want such incidents at their ground?
Well, maybe. But no level of football takes place without incident, there are issues every week from the Premier League down to Sunday leagues and even parents watching kids’ football.
In all those instances, the individual/s responsible for any inappropriate behaviour are dealt with. They don’t punish every single person who happens to support the same team, like in the case of Southend Manor and Met Police FC.
And while you may assume that the Essex Senior League without Clapton fans is entirely incident-free, given attendances only average around 50, already this season there has been….
* An acid attack threat – reported widely in local and national newspapers
* A ‘huge melee’ of players leading to trouble breaking out among spectators’ – reported in a newspaper
* Anti-Semitic chanting – caught on video and reported to Kick It Out
* A ‘mass ruck’ involving players and fans – reported on social media
Quite a charge sheet in the space of a few months – and nothing at all to do with Clapton Ultras.
At the exact moment we published this article, a London FA official is reporting on Twitter that an Essex Senior League club’s match is abandoned due to a spitting incident sparking a mass disturbance.
Of course these are just incidents that have become public knowledge. Many ESL games are played in front of a mere handful of people, often without a single mention on social media, so who knows what else happens away from the glare.
In contrast, tens of thousands of spectators have seen Clapton play at these hundreds of games over the five-year period, with thousands of tweets covering the fans’ every move, and with virtually no incidents.
A near miss?
A similar situation threatened to develop for the FA Vase game at London Lions in October, we can reveal.
A Clapton Ultras source tells us that the home club were ‘unbelievably welcoming from the moment the draw was made’ but suddenly became nervous the day before the fixture.
It is understood the Lions had received communication from Mr McBean, who massively exaggerated the number of travelling supporters to expect and recommended to prepare for bad behaviour.
The fearful hosts duly drafted in at least six stewards to deal with an invasion of riotous hooligans – only to relax when a fiercely noisy and colourful but brilliantly behaved group turned up.
The home club in fact went so far as to publicly praise the fans, writing: “The ‘Ultras’ did not stop singing and provided a unique element to the day.”
Would anyone have been surprised, however, if London Lions had instead banned visiting supporters based on the similar misinformation they received as Southend Manor and Met Police FC?
Counting the cost
Whatever your opinion of the reasons behind the fan bans, we believe it has cost Southend Manor alone a four-figure sum.
The last two attendances for Southend Manor v Clapton games have been 98 and 93. In contrast, this season’s attendances have been 45 and 41 – a difference of 53 and 52.
Assuming similar numbers of Tons fans had turned up this season, an extra 105 people in total paying £7 admission, and buying just one drink at the bar on average, that’s well over a grand in lost income.
On top of that, the league game saw 6 stewards patrolling the edge of the ground for at least 3 hours. There were at least 3 at the cup game the month earlier too.
At least some of them were hired SIA accredited bouncers, we have been told. That would also have cost the club hundreds of pounds extra in wages.
In the end, around 50 Clapton fans across the two games watched from just outside the perimeter fence for free anyway (and didn’t let off any ‘pyro’ or otherwise behave badly).
Likewise, Met Police FC missed out on hundreds of pounds of gate receipts and shelled out for four stewards outside their Imber Court ground to ensure no visiting fans tried to gain access.
So how much did the outdated and misleading information posted on Clapton’s website sway the opposition clubs’ decisions to ban the club’s fans?
Unfortunately we may never know as Southend Manor and Met Police have declined to reply to any of our emails.
Last month Clapton FC announced a policy not to speak to this website and have not even replied to our last seven emails requesting comment.