Millwall chiefs have strongly condemned discriminatory abuse and warned the club could be fined and they could face sanctions if it continues.
In the biggest clampdown at The Den since the 2001 play-offs, Lions chief executive Steve Kavanagh fears the club could be fined, supporters banned or stands closed if they do not act.
His warning follows four days after incidents of discriminatory abuse, insults and missiles hurled at opponents during Saturday’s 2-1 FA Cup third round home defeat by local rivals Crystal Palace.
Kavanagh’s strongly-worded statement said: “There were a small group of people who regrettably and depressingly overstepped the mark.
“Countless missiles were thrown on to the pitch, one of which as we all saw struck a Palace player; there were three separate incidents of individual discriminatory abuse; unsavoury chanting; a physical assault of a steward; numerous reports of drug taking in toilets; and a pitch incursion.
“It is with tremendous regret that I am having to communicate in such a way but this is all an unfortunate and uncomfortable truth which as a club and as a fan base we must address.
“The club’s stance on discriminatory abuse of any form could not be clearer. There is zero-tolerance and any supporter found guilty will be banned from this club for life. Individuals with such unpalatable views are not welcome at Millwall Football Club.
“Such events could lead not just to punishment for the club but also for supporters by way of potential block or stand closures, or worse.
“I’ve lost count of the amount of supporters who have contacted me or other staff to say they can no longer attend while the booing is going on, and we also have employees throughout the club, Academy and Community Trust who feel understandably very upset and angry both by it and the subsequent damage it is doing.
“This season has seen a worrying rise in verbal and at times physical abuse towards staff, particularly stewards. They are employed to help ensure the health and safety of all supporters and do not deserve to be victim of any sort of abuse.”
One Millwall fan was arrested for alleged discriminatory abuse after the 2-1 FA Cup third round defeat on Saturday, while two more are said to have assaulted stewards. Another was held for an alleged pitch incursion. A Palace supporter was arrested for allegedly using pyrotechnics.
Kavanagh said: “The club became aware of two of these three incidents following reports from other supporters, which serves to reinforce the very obvious fact that such behaviour is completely disgraceful and unwelcome at Millwall.”
Two people have been identified by CCTV in relation to missile throwing, one of which struck Palace’s Michael Olise.
These images have been passed on to the Metropolitan Police.
Millwall are expecting to identify more individuals from both home and away ends for missile throwing.
The Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] said it takes racist and homophobic chanting “extremely seriously” and is working to “drive this hideous behaviour out of the game”.
A spokesperson added: “The impact on groups attacked by this type of mob behaviour can be devastating.
“We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone accused of these actions where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
The Football Association has also begun its own investigation into the events.
Referee Anthony Taylor’s report into the tie will be studied before the FA decides what to do next.
In the first meeting of the two south London rivals in nine years, flares were thrown on to the pitch, including from the Palace supporters’ area after they took the lead. Palace midfielder Olise was struck by a bottle as he was about to take a corner.
Millwall supporters also booed Palace players taking a knee before the game and then subjected Conor Gallagher to chants relating to his parent club Chelsea.
Kavanagh added: “The atmosphere generated by fans during last weekend’s big FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace was nothing short of extraordinary. At so many points during the match the noise was deafening and unquestionably contributed enormously to a very good performance from the team. Unfortunately, a couple of moments of individual brilliance won them the game but there is no doubt the display deserved more, which would have been just reward for your backing throughout.”
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