Thursday, May 30, 2024

Football violence trial of former Grays Athletic boss begins at Old Bailey

THE FORMER chief executive of Grays Athletic, who, it is claimed, glorified his links to a notorious hooligan group, tried to set up a clash between Millwall and West Ham fans, the Old Bailey heard on Tuesday.

Andrew (Andy) Swallow, allegedly plotted to organise ‘mass violence’ on the day of an FA Cup 3rd round match.

The plan was thwarted by the presence of police officers with camcorders and any fighting was restricted to isolated outbreaks, it is claimed.

When Swallow was arrested police found a photograph of a group of men in front of a large banner reading ‘ICF 30 years undefeated’ – referring to the West Ham group known as the Inter City Firm.

Prosecutor James Lofthouse said: ‘As such he was glorifying his association with the ICF.’

Swallow is now standing trial alongside two fellow West Ham supporters, Shane Flexon, 26, and Shaun Sheridan, 25, and a Millwall fan, Aidan Andrews, 41, accused of conspiring to commit violent disorder.

Mr Lofthouse, opening the case, told jurors: ‘Organised football violence is what we say these four men were involved in that day – an attempt to plan and participate in mass violence between groups of Millwall and West Ham supporters.

‘Because of the visible presence of police officers with camcorders these plans were largely frustrated.

‘None of these four defendants were involved in any violence that day but they planned violence and they planned to be part of it.’

Mr Lofthouse said there was a ‘history of animosity’ between Millwall and West Ham and both teams had a history of football-related violence.

He added: ‘It is much rarer for any violence to take place at the actual ground. Those areas tend to be far more heavily policed.

‘Therefore it is commonplace for the leaders of rival groups to communicate before games to try and arrange a venue for a fight.’

It is claimed the four men decided to arrange a fight on the day Millwall travelled to Dagenham and Redbridge for the third round’s FA Cup tie on January 7 last year.

‘It was an opportunity for organised violence and was likely to be less intensively policed than a match between West Ham and Millwall,’ said Mr Lofthouse.

Text messages found on Sheridan’s phone revealed the attempts to arrange the fight, it is claimed.

The day before the match Sheridan texted his friends to say: ‘They are defo coming’.

Flexon replied: ‘Yeah, cheeky c***s, lol’, while Swallow messaged: ‘So what? So are we.’

On the day of the match Sheridan referred to Millwall fans being ‘run off’ at the Eastbrook pub in Dagenham and accused Andrews of staying at a ‘Barking commercial pub with CCTV all over’.

He also allegedly texted Andrews to say: ‘The mighty Millwall got run – at least you showed. Top boy.’

Sheridan later messaged his friends: ‘Delete all, I’m about to get nicked.’

The prosecutor told the court: ‘This is not banter, it is a snapshot of organised agreement.’

Sheridan was seen by police with a large group of West Ham fans at a Dagenham working men’s club before the game, the court heard.

Jurors heard Swallow was also at the club before the game and left when police arrived.

During the match he was seen to give a signal to 20 other fans to leave before the group headed to the Eastbrook pub, it is claimed.

Four months earlier on September 17, 2011, he was caught on film making a stabbing gesture to Millwall fans at a game between Millwall and West Ham.

Mr Lofthouse said: ‘This is no doubt reference to a stabbing of a Millwall supporter at a West Ham-Millwall match in 2009.’

When he was arrested on February 3, 2012, he replied: ‘That’s rubbish.’

Swallow took over at Grays in 2009 but resigned last month. The club, who have been groundless since 2010, were recently promoted to the Ryman League Premier Division.

Swallow, of (Flat 602) Michigan House, Biscayne Avenue, Blackwall, east London, Flexon, of (75) College Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, Andrews of (73) Prospect House, St James Square, Bermondsey and Sheridan of (Flat 17) Stansfield House, Longfield Estate, Bermondsey, all deny conspiring to commit violent disorder.

The trial continues.

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