As a long time supporter of Walsall Wood Football Club as a historic, community institution, I’m angry and saddened to see West Midlands Police post the following statement yesterday.
I will not carry any further material from the club until this matter has been addressed fully.
People within the local community have been lost during this pandemic; it’s also deeply disrespectful to local businesses who are suffering financial hardship from the lockdown yet obeying the rules – many of whom have supported WWFC over the years – to see this.
West Midlands Police wrote:
Our officers broke up an illegal ‘lock in’ at a football club in Walsall at the weekend.
We’ve received several reports since April, that Walsall Wood football club on Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood, has been secretly opening and not complying with Covid-19 restrictions.
There have been several unsuccessful attempts to get into the club, and efforts made to speak to the key holders and committee members over the past few months. It’s thought that the people inside have watched us arrive on their CCTV and then quickly closed the shutters and turned off the lights and music before we can get in.
Further enquires were carried out regarding the club’s CCTV, which we discovered had been deleted.
Local officers thought the club was open at the weekend, so they surrounded the premises just before 7pm on Saturday evening (5 December). They saw the rear shutter coming down and the lights inside being switched off.
We visited the home of the chairman in an attempt to get access into the club. He was unable to provide addresses of key holders and denied having keys which would allow us entry into the club. So we were left with no alternative than to force entry.
While attempting to cut through various padlocks the people inside starting chanting, they switched the lights and music back on and continued to defiantly party.
Officers from our operational support unit were called to assist, they had to cut the shutter doors open with an angle grinder and then force the door open.
We issued 17 £200 fixed penalty notices to the people inside and a £1000 fine to the organiser.
A review of their licence is now underway.
Chief Inspector Rod Rose, from Walsall police said “This was a blatant breach of the current tier 3 restrictions in place in Walsall.
“We believe the club have been flouting the rules throughout the pandemic and have attempted to outsmart us when we’ve previously attended.
“While they may think it’s harmless fun, their actions were reckless and are endangering lives.
“We understand the frustrations of people who are wanting to socialise – especially in the run up to Christmas – but the government restrictions are in place to reduce the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
“We’re committed to doing that in Walsall and I’d urge anyone with any similar concerns to contact us via Live Chat on our website or by call us on 101.”