Millwall's disappointment at being eliminated from the FA Cup could be eclipsed by more serious consequences for the club after violent scenes inside Hull's KC Stadium on Saturday overshadowed the action on the pitch, dealing the club a serious setback in its long-running battle to rid itself of its hooligan past.
Humberside Police, who expect significant additions to the 12 arrests made at the scene, are to investigate how as many as 500 Millwall fans already known to be "high risk" potential trouble-makers were able to attend the fourth-round match after targeting the fixture for organised violence.
Having infiltrated the area of empty seats designed to keep Millwall supporters in the North Stand at a safe distance from home fans in the East Stand, Millwall fans ripped out seats and began hurling them at Hull supporters, along with coins and plastic bottles. Hull fans threw objects back and police in riot gear formed a barrier while the sight of mounted police on the touchline to prevent a pitch invasion recalled the away club's dark days in the 1980s. Five of those arrested were charged with public order offences.
Hull City officials say that 50 seats were destroyed, with damage to toilet and refreshment areas. They plan to bill Millwall for the repairs. Paul Duffen, the home club's chairman, said: "This kind of mindless hooliganism is an ugly throwback to a bygone era which most clubs have eradicated from their culture." The Football Association is likely to launch an inquiry.
Millwall have had a membership scheme in operation for the last seven seasons following serious crowd trouble at the home play-off match against Birmingham City in 2002, when 47 police officers were injured trying to quell rioting.
Chief Inspector Darren Downs, Humberside police's match commander, said that around 280 officers were assigned to crowd control duties – almost double the usual number – after intelligence reports established that Millwall fans had targeted the Hull fixture for violence.
"What was unusual was the outbreak of trouble inside the ground," chief inspector Downs said. "Since the introduction of closed-circuit television it has become rare. Once the video evidence has been studied, however, those involved can expect to find us knocking on their doors."
Millwall's executive deputy chairman, Heather Rabbatts, said: "We will continue to take responsibility for doing everything in our power to rid ourselves of a criminal element which clearly sees big games involving our club as an opportunity to indulge in anti-social behaviour."
The match itself was relatively low-key. Hull progressed comfortably to the last 16 thanks to Michael Turner's first-half header and Ian Ashbee's strike six minutes from time.
Goals: Turner (15) 1-0; Ashbee (84) 2-0.
Hull City (4-4-2): Warner; Dawson, Turner, Zayatte, Ricketts; Garcia, Ashbee, Marney, Halmosi (Featherstone, 66); Cousin, Manucho (Folan, 75). Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Doyle, Geovanni, France, Mendy.
Millwall (4-4-2): Forde; Dunne, Robinson, Craig, Frampton; Grabban (Hackett, 77), Laird, Abdou, Martin (Grimes, 77); Harris, McLeod (Alexander, 74). Substitutes not used: Pidgeley (gk), Kandol, O'Connor, Fuseini.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
Booked: Hull Folan; Millwall Martin, Harris, Dunne, Grimes.
Man of the match: Ashbee.