Chants and music as police bust illegal 'lock-in' at Walsall Wood Football Club
Police broke up an illegal 'lock-in' at a football club in Walsall as the people inside chanted and played music – after months of reports of the club not complying with Covid-19 restrictions.
West Midlands Police officers had received several reports since April that Walsall Wood Football Club, off Lichfield Road, in Walsall, had been secretly opening.
In total, 17 £200 fixed penalty notices were issued, while the owner was fined £1,000 over the weekend. A licence review is now under way.
Officers had made several unsuccessful attempts to get into the club and made efforts to try and speak to the key holders and committee members over the last few months. It is thought that the people inside watched police arrive on CCTV and then quickly closed the shutters, and turned off the lights and music before officers could get in.
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Further enquiries were carried out regarding the clubs' CCTV, which police later discovered had been deleted.
Officers believed the club to be open at the weekend, so they surrounded the premises just before 7pm on December 5 – and saw the rear shutter coming down and the lights inside being switched off.
Walsall Police said they visited the home of the club chairman to get access into the club – and he was unable to provide addresses of key holders and denied having keys which would allow police entry to the club.
Having been left with no alternative, police forced entry into the premises. While officers attempted to cut through various padlocks, the people inside started chanting, switched the lights and music back on and continued to defiantly party.
Officers from the force's operational support unit were called to assist, who had to cut the shutter doors open with an angle grinder and then force the door open.
West Midlands Police officers issued 17 £200 fixed penalty notices to the people inside and a £1000 fine to the owner.
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 have previously attended.
“While they may think it is 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 would urge anyone with any similar concerns to contact us, by calling us on 101.”