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Sep 21, 2009

Hammers and Millwall to face heavy penalty

ESPNsoccernet has learned that both West Ham and Millwall will be charged on Wednesday with a series of hard-hitting offences for the violence and pitch invasions that marred the Hammers' 3-1 defeat of their London rivals last month.

I understand that the FA plan to get tough and the severity of the charges might come as a surprise to those thinking the FA would take the usual line and dish out only fines.

The charges will be issued on Wednesday, after West Ham's Tuesday night Carling Cup tie at Bolton, and the consequences of any repeat of football violence will make both clubs shudder with the severity of their suspended sentences - anything else will be viewed as the soft option.

But I believe the FA are in the mood to take a stand against football violence with their World Cup 2018 bid at stake. The wording of their charges will be an indicator to the FA Commission that the FA are seeking tough measures as a deterrent.

I believe that West Ham will face the threat of being forced to play a game behind closed doors as punishment for rioting and specifically for the pitch invasions. Although West Ham and Millwall will be charged, the home side face heavier punishment.

But both clubs also face suspended sentences that could mean being banned from the Carling Cup should any such scenes be repeated. There will also be heavy fines for both clubs.

The FA have studied footage from 47 cameras inside Upton Park and have now concluded their investigations and are preparing to announce the range of charges. The two clubs will not contest the charges but will ask for mitigating circumstances to be taken into account.

Fights broke out 90 minutes before kick-off and raged for five hours on the streets surrounding Upton Park; while West Ham fans invaded the pitch three times during the game. After the match hundreds of hooligans bombarded police with bottles and crates and one man was stabbed, with dozens more injured.

Both West Ham and Millwall have cooperated with the FA's investigations, and the Hammers published photographs of perceived culprits in their matchday programme for the game against Liverpool in an attempt to aid the identification process.

Some of the 200 riot police outside the stadium had to be re-deployed as it became clear the stewards could not cope with the invasions.

West Ham will have to give guarantees about future stewarding. And the FA are also keen to help the police identify ringleaders of the violence in the surrounding areas. As well as facing police charges, any culprits will face a banning order from every football stadium in the country.

There were also allegations of racism from West Ham's Carlton Cole and Millwall's Jason Price, who claimed they had been targeted for abuse by supporters.

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