Stewards and police have been blasted after Accrington Stanley’s end-of-season party at Cheltenham was marred by fan arrests and injuries.
Flashpoints were reported both before and during Saturday’s game, culminating in a tug-of-war over a surfer banner between stewards and Stanley Ultras.
It was the Reds’ second away game running to descend into unseemly scenes, after assistant manager Jimmy Bell was allegedly wrestled to the ground by stewards at Crewe two weeks ago.
Supporters group chief Rob Russell said the Cheltenham scenes were the worst he could remember involving Accrington fans, but laid the blame squarely with the authorities.
Alleged incidents reported by Stanley supporters included:
One fan said to have been arrested for defying instructions not to step off the pavement during an escorted march to the ground before the game.
A schoolboy said to have been ejected and arrested for ducking under a barrier. Fans claimed his shirt was ripped and he suffered minor injuries in the process.
One elderly supporter said to have been nearly ‘strangled’ in a tug of war with stewards over a banner.
Another fan said to have badly injured a leg in the melee and spent the second half in a wheelchair.
A total of 219 Stanley fans made the 150-mile journey south, but many deserted the ground in disgust well before the final whistle.
Tensions were evident before the match when Reds supporters marched to the Whaddon Road ground. A dozen or so Stanley fans opted to boycott the game and stay in the pub in protest at perceived ‘zero tolerance’ stewarding and policing.
Online message forums have been inundated with messages from angry fans, including claims the stewards’ actions had turned the day into a “nightmare”.
And there was also backing from Cheltenham supporters, who took the time to log on to the Accrington website to register their support.
Russell said that Stanley’s fan behaviour record was virtually exemplary and questioned the homework the local constabulary had done on the visitors.
He added that stewards are usually told to isolate identified troublemakers at half-time to avoid potential flashpoints, but claimed that hadn’t happened.
He said: “I’ve been with our fans for 20 years, home and away, and there’s never been any trouble. I’ve never seen scenes as bad as those on Saturday. They obviously knew nothing about us when we got there.”
Cheltenham officials were expecting the club’s safety officer to meet with police yesterday (Thursday) to review CCTV footage, and were unable to comment until then.