West Midlands Police said they had received several reports since April that Walsall Wood football club had been secretly opening and not complying with coronavirus restrictions.
Officers said several unsuccessful attempts were made to get into the club, and efforts were made to speak to the key holders and committee members – they also found CCTV footage had been deleted.
They surrounded the club on Saturday evening and cut through padlocks to get inside, seeing people inside having a party with music. On gaining entry, they then issued 17 £200 fixed penalty notices to the people inside and a £1,000 fine to the organiser – and a review of their licence is now underway, officers added.
But chairman of the club Justin Hodgin denied that police had tried to get in touch with key holders – and also said he had no knowledge of a fine being issued or the club's license being under review.
In a lengthy statement posted to the club's official Twitter account, Mr Hodgin said: "Further to the statement made by West Midlands Police regarding the events at our club on Saturday, December 5 2020, we would like to make the following statement.
"Walsall Wood FC can confirm the police did attend our club on Saturday evening to find a number of people inside the club when they should have not been there.
#WATCH | This is the moment our officers broke up an illegal ‘lock in’ at a football club in #Walsall at the weekend.— Walsall Police (@Walsallpolice) December 9, 2020
We'd had reports that drinkers were illegally gathered in the bar behind the shutters, but our attempts to get in were initially met with silence. pic.twitter.com/QlSRTbNfjC
"The club can confirm that no club officials or club staff were on site at the time and therefore we are conducting our own internal investigation regarding the event and we are awaiting information from the police to conclude these.
"In the police statement is states that following a visit to my home, I refused to give the police keys for entry and refused to give details of key holders, which I completely refute. I informed the police that I do not hold keys to the club and in fact gave them the names of the people who held keys. I can also confirm that the police did not try and contact these people after the information was given. I have also spoken to our committee members and none of these were contacted either.
"Also in the statement from West Midlands Police it stated we have been issued a fine and our license is under review. This is the first time we have heard this. We have called the police every day since the event and we have yet to have a response.
"We are also in the process of asking the police for information of the other events since April that they have reported to have occurred at the club, apart from one visit where there was no evidence of any wrong doing, we are completely unaware of any other instances and would welcome any information that they have so we again can do our own investigation.
"We do take this pandemic seriously and we will take all necessary action as we do not condone what has happened.
"We have reviewed our onsite security and taken all necessary action so this type of occurrence will not happen again."
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."