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|Newell: Crowd Fears|
Town Withdraw from South West Challenge Cup
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY have controversially withdrawn from the final of the Errea South West Challenge Cup against Luton, citing fears of crowd trouble as the reason for their exit from the tournament.
The Mariners wanted the kick-off moved to a 3pm start from 6pm, but the tournament organisers refused to grant Town's request.
Belgian club Royal Racing FC Montegnee will take Grimsby's place in the final, meeting Luton in Bideford at 6pm.
A statement on Mariners Net, citing "potential conflict with some Luton Town supporters", had "highly recommended that the game kick off at 3pm" when there could be officers present at the Sports Ground.
Although both managers agreed, Town claim more senior figures at Luton would not agree to a change.
The statment says: "Unfortunately Grimsby Town and Luton Town could not reach joint agreement to play the game at a time advised by the local constabulary.
"The police were taking into account intelligence and potential conflict with some Luton Town supporters which presented a real risk in the opinion of our club, event organisers and the police.
"Stewards had been deployed at the Rushden and Diamonds game (yesterday's semi-final which Grimsby won 4-1) to keep a keen eye on Luton supporters who were clearly intent on getting at Mike Newell.
"To this extent there became a real concern when it was clear that the Mariners were going to be in Sunday's final against Luton Town.
"It was important that safety at the game be a priority, and with limited stewarding capacity, our club had to ensure that safety for all could be maintained in accordance with police advice, their suggested availability and their advised 3pm kick-off time.
"Sadly Luton Town officials did not see the risk as being significant. Although both managers seemed agreeable to an earlier kick-off, Luton Town's hierarchy insisted on the scheduled 6pm kick-off time.
"We understand this decision is disappointing to travelling fans from both teams but in the interest of safety, in conjunction with resources available, our club is left with no alternative but to withdraw from the competition."
Town claim that the fact they would play five games in five days was not an issue. Their fears were of the reaction of Luton's fans towards Mike Newell who used to be manager at Kenilworth Road.
The tournament organisers were not happy with Town's request. In a statement on the tournament's web site, Bradshaw said: "The first indication of this unwelcome and hugely disappointing development came some 15 minutes before the end of a superb game we had been watching at Appledore involving Grimsby and Rushden and Diamonds (the semi-final which Grimsby won 4-1).
"Frankly it felt like we had been presented with an ultimatum: you either change the kick-off time or we don't play.
"Having explained fully the plans already laid which we felt more than adequate to handle the potential for any disruption, it was quickly evident that we were in danger of being bounced into an unwarranted change of time with untold consequences for our own staff, that of Luton Town, their fans and the wider supporter base attracted to the tournament.
"In the final analysis, I cannot make anybody play a game they patently do not wish to play.
"Furthermore, I do take our responsibility for public safety very seriously. We have completed 12 matches without a single incident of spectator disturbance and I believe that our professional reputation and that of my support team has now been seriously questioned by this development.
"I know we are blameless and my sole responsibility now is to the two teams who will contest the final. We owe the paying public a finale and that is exactly what we will deliver on Sunday."
Grim Rob Says Although it would have been nice to see Grimsby win a trophy, the only consequences of not playing is that we won't be invited back next year!
Although the club say it was not an issue five games in five days was always a tall order for Grimsby and perhaps we should have not arranged our other two fixtures so soon after this tournament.
How genuine the fears of trouble are it is difficult to assess. Frankly who cares. Everyone will have forgotten about this tournament in a few days time, and there are more important matters ahead of us.
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