Gillingham FC 's response to Sunday's Millwall fixture.
The fixture against Millwall last Sunday (May 8th) at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium was played under exceptional and unusual circumstances, with it being the final game of the League One season, plus the fact that both teams were in and around play-off places.
These factors meant that it was always going to be a game that would be a tense and challenging encounter, something which the club were extremely aware of. An extensive and in-depth period of planning between the police and the football club lasted several weeks, and due to the nature of this game we increased our resources in terms of stewards and security staff. We also more than doubled our response teams, plus made the away end an alcohol-free zone.
On the day, there were two main talking points that emerged. The first being that of away fans who were seated in the Medway Stand upper tier’s corporate area, having purchased the club’s Watch, Wine and Dine package, which entitles them to seats within our strictly corporate areas.
All away supporters in these corporate seats had been checked by Millwall Football Club and were verified as people who were on Millwall’s corporate customer database. As a result, they were deemed not to carry any threat to public safety. Furthermore, we had no issues with any away fans invited in to our corporate boxes; again, these were vetted prior to the match, and they also behaved in an orderly fashion.
The second point was that of Millwall fans accessing tickets for home supporter stands. Tickets for Sunday’s match were sold initially to season ticket holders and then to supporters registered on Gillingham Football Club’s membership system, who also had a customer reference number and previous purchase history. Despite the club issuing a warning beforehand that those Gillingham FC members who bought tickets were responsible for themselves and their guests, some tickets must have been purchased with a view of bringing family, friends and colleagues inside the stadium who were Millwall fans.
The club will now be pursuing those members who purchased the tickets for the away supporters who were able to get into the home stands and acted in a totally inappropriate manner. Further action will be taken against anybody who has breached the rules and regulations on ticket sales.
As with any other game, all areas of the ground were monitored closely and instructions were issued with safety first and foremost in mind for all the people inside the stadium. Away supporters identified within the home areas were closely monitored by stewards. Some were ejected; however when the numbers involved became apparent, the safety officer, together with the Police Commander, has to consider whether or not ejection is the safest or most appropriate option for the stewards to take.
All spectators who entered the field of play were arrested, and in total there were three arrests inside the stadium. We had 15 individuals ejected during the course of the game.
Despite the disappointment of not winning this final game of the 2015/16 campaign and just missing out on a play-off spot, the club would like to thank our supporters for the respect shown by our home fans at the end of the match by not entering the field of play. This allowed the chairman, management and players to undertake their lap of appreciation after a season of hard work and commitment.