After the news today that the Coney Hall manager was shot dead at training yesterday, SW19 dipped back into its archives to remind itself of THAT game all those years ago.
I reproduce the article from here below. The news that the guy was shot dead in broad daylight is shocking, but if we’re being honest not that surprising.Â Anyone there that evening would have felt something was up, and since 2002 was one of the most surreal atmospheres in a game even before it all kicked off.
One still believes even now that the current animosity towards Bromley started from this very game. I still can’t believe there was no PA available, and reading back over what went on – none of it exaggerated – gobsmacks me to this day. It remains, without doubt, the most dangerous game I have been to, simply because it could have ended up a lot, lot worse.
The other thing that is of surprise is how long ago it was. This was written the day after it all happened, 17th March 2004. That’s well over five years ago, when we were still in the CCL. Interesting to note that the OS’s archive doesn’t have a report from the game. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned. But it just goes to show how much has changed since back then. Although it’s only been five years, it may as well be five decades ago.
Anyway, here it is below, complete with pictures. Reading it back now, some things in there we may need to learn for next season…
I’ve had a night’s sleep, come to this computer afresh and I still can’t get my head around the abandoned game. For those who don’t know, us and Coney had our game called off by the ref in extra time (it was 2-2) when a massive fight broke out behind the dugout. As there was no police and no stewards in a crowd reported to be 2700 (yes, you read that right), with alcohol being on open sale and being sold indiscriminately (yes, you read that right), there was bound to be problems.
From the moment I stepped in and saw lots (about 50) of Coney shirts about, I had a feeling that something was going to happen. From the Elton John playlist on the PA, to the Â£8 entrance fee, this was one of those games which didn’t feel right. Bit like Wallingford last year.
Things started off OK, we went 1-0 up then they equalised. There was some banter, “Get a girlfriend, Wimbledon” by them, followed by “Get a boyfriend, Coney Hall”, to them. All a bit cheeky, but nothing that untowards. They tried a “Milton Keynes” chant which isn’t a bright move….
Then, I saw an ambulance come in, and some very frantic looking people. A Bromley fan collapsed, with blood from his mouth, and was receiving lots of CPR. The ambulance came and with the usual rumours (it was one of ours, it was a female, it was a heart attack), and it left a lot subdued. I thought the person was dead.
[SW19: The victim died a week later]
The game ended up at 2-2 and I grabbed another drink from the bar. During the extra time, I noticed something happening behind the dugouts. A lot of people moving away very quickly. I have to admit, I should have stayed where I was but it was more of a rubbernecking exercise when you see a car crash. You just have to see what was happening. So I went behind the dugout. There were a lot of stunned people about, and the entire group of players looking at the group behind, causing the trouble. I didn’t get involved, I was a bit het up but thankfully nothing more. I took some photos, tried to see what was going on (and overhearing some most interesting discussions), before realising that the players had gone off.
When they didn’t come out again, we all gathered the game had been abandoned, and when the players DID come out, to shake hands and applaud us, that was that. Cue stunned silence, apart from the coppers who had finally turned up (and they only came because of a 999 call). Only bit of authority at that game prior to that was two coppers and one of the three stewards lifting a guy in the bar at half time. The phrase bolt, horse and door springs to mind.
Also, Ivor Heller got twatted. I kid you not.
As for the rest of it. Well, be warned, I feel a bit ranty at the moment, and quite frankly a few people need to be upset.
The guy who had a heart attack is, last I heard, still alive. Though with the amount of CPR being applied I didn’t hold out much hope for him. Trust me, ambulance people are wonderful. I would like to say because of the quick responses of everyone, but in truth I believe it was despite everything. When you have to get an ambulance through your own mobile phone because the club wasn’t able/willing to do it for you, that goes beyond every single bit of health and safety. I might expect not much support at Raynes Park Vale vs Chipstead (though I would bet that things would be done quicker at Grand Dive) but for a semi final with a team known for a large following, it’s beyond reprehension.
If that had happened to me, or anyone I knew, I would be this morning down my solicitor planning to sue the fuck out of Bromley FC for sheer negligence.
So, why did it degenerate? Two main reasons : one, there was a laxness in stewarding/copper prescence. I counted no more than three people remotely like stewards. It ended up with one AFCW steward having to do unofficial duties for the night. And all because Bromley were being tight. Indeed, I believe that we offered stewards but were turned down.
As for the police, who were clearly pissed off, they claim that they weren’t aware of the game going on until 8pm. Again, why didn’t they know?
The other main reason was the alcohol on open sale. The PA, when not playing Elton John, telling where the toilets are and fucking off when a PA is needed most of all, was telling people that you could buy cans of Fosters/Cider from a kiosk, being served by girls who just wanted a quick buck. I hope I put that right. Plus the bar (which sold nice Guinness) was open right up until full time, you could take it outside etc etc. Now, we all know what alcohol can do, and I shudder to think how many regulations have been broken.
So now what? Firstly, the rammifications will be massive over this, I just hope that AFCW aren’t given more punishment than we deserve. Secondly, Coney Hall and (more importantly) Bromley should be made to pay big time over this – you have a crowd of 2700 and no police? No stewards? Alcohol on open sale? Full of little pikey arseholes who probably went home afterwards and fucked their sisters? I think that the rearranged game should be behind closed doors : can you imagine us and their less-than-savoury element meeting up again? Failing that, there is no way it should be played at Bromley. Coney might wish it to be played at KM (which apparently they were keen to do), or at a ground seriously reduced in capacity. As a lot of the Coney lot were from Addington anyway, I would suggest in all seriousness the game should be played nowhere near there at all. Assuming they don’t chuck us out
Secondly, and just as importantly, AFCW must publically realise that it has a hooligan element. Not a come-in-and-smash-the-place-up type of thing, as far as I know we don’t have a firm as such, but we do have some (very) well known faces who got tangled up last night. I know that when similar happened at Wallingford the club’s press statement about it seemed to deny that any of our fans were capable of fighting, when eye witness reports suggested otherwise. So we now have to be firm : get statements. Weed out the rats. Doesn’t matter if they’re 20 year veterans or 20 second hard men (ie, they’re brave for about 20 seconds), do what Chelski used to do and publish names in the programme. Seen to be doing something and those tempted to large it up next time might think again (fully aware that the risk of provocation is very real).
If last night, Colne, Herne Bay etc is anything to go by, we are going to have to learn quick on how to handle opposition fans. We’ve been very fortunate in the last couple of years. A re-education is going to come whether we like it or not.
Thirdly, when you see families leaving immediately because they were looking scared, and when you hear people who came to their first game in ages, that’s when you wonder. They won’t be back. And why should they?
One thing is certain, thank fuck we’re not playing Saturday.