Football club could lose licence after police 'abused at illegal lock-in'

A Black Country football and social club could lose its licence to sell alcohol after alleged "repeated failures" to follow Covid rules.

Walsall Wood Football Club. Photo: Google
Walsall Wood Football Club. Photo: Google

A senior officer has said police were told to "f*** off" when they went to break up a lockdown lock-in at Walsall Wood Football and Social Club, on Lichfield Road, in December.

A hearing will be held next month after West Midlands Police called for a review following an incident at the venue on December 5 last year where officers used angle grinders to cut their way in to break up a gathering and issue 19 on the spot fines to people inside.

In evidence submitted to Walsall Council’s licensing sub committee ahead of the March 5 hearing, chief superintendent Andy Parsons said police were met with abuse when they tried to gain entry to the pub.

He also said chairman Justin Hodgin, who wasn’t in the premises, was contacted but was “evasive and denied responsibility”, saying he was unable to locate key-holders.

Police had previously received a report on October 7, when Walsall was in Tier 2, that fans attending a match at the ground were not social distancing.

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And on April 5 and 10 – during national lockdown – there were separate complaints from the public that the venue was open but officers found shutters down and the club locked up when they attended both times.

But when officers went to view CCTV footage from both dates, they claimed there was no evidence of recordings on the hard drive.

On the December 5 incident, Supt. Parsons said: “Officers attended the premises and could clearly hear activities taking place inside.

“Repeated attempts were made to get people’s attention inside of the premises. It was known that they could hear officers as officers were repeatedly told to f*** off.

“Officers could hear music inside. The activity inside continued for some considerable time, even after it was apparent police officers were outside trying to engage with them.

“Ultimately, force had to be used to enter the premises and a substantial number of police resources were deployed to the incident.”

He added: “There has been a continued effort to operate these premises in contravention of the regulations. This is aggravated by the secretive manner in which the premises have operated.

“West Midlands Police have no confidence in the management of this premises which has shown a disregard to the licensing objectives for the sake of profit and financial gain.”

In a statement posted on the club’s social media page on December 9, Mr Hodgin confirmed an incident had taken place and that the club were taking action to ensure.

But he strongly refuted police assertions that he had been obstructive when they visited his home to ask for keys for the club or names of key-holders.

He also denied any club officials were at the venue when the incident took place and added he was unaware of other breaches from April, apart from one visit where police found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Mr Hodgin said: “Police did attend our club on Saturday evening (December 5) to find a number of people inside the club, when they should not have been there.

“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.

“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 on-site security and taken all necessary action so that this type of occurrence will not happen again.”

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