West Ham and Millwall face severe punishments

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The Independent Online

West Ham and Millwall face the prospect of severe punishment by the Football Association after being charged with several offences - including racist behaviour by both sets of fans - following the shocking crowd violence in August.

The FA have issued four charges against West Ham and three against Millwall after an investigation into the serious disturbances in and around Upton Park on August 25.

A full range of sanctions are available including the clubs being made to play matches behind closed doors.

An FA statement said each club faces charges of:

:: Failure to ensure their supporters refrained from violent, threatening, obscene and provocative behaviour.

:: Failure to ensure their supporters refrained from racist behaviour.

:: Failure to ensure their supporters did not throw missiles, harmful or dangerous objects onto the pitch.

West Ham have also been charged with failure to ensure their supporters did not enter the field of play - there were three pitch invasions during the Carling Cup second round tie.

West Ham striker Carlton Cole and Millwall's Jason Price both suffered racist abuse during the match, which the home side won 3-1.

During the evening, one 44-year-old man was taken to hospital with stab wounds and several others were injured.

The FA's statement added: "The FA has liaised closely with all relevant authorities including the Metropolitan Police during the course of its investigations and has been in constant dialogue with both clubs during this time.

"Both clubs now have a period of 14 days to respond to the charges."

After the match, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe backed the FA's call for life bans for those fans found to have been involved and described the scenes as "a disgrace to football".

Millwall responded by saying they are "shocked and disappointed" by the charges.

The League One side said some fans had won some praise for their behaviour and the club were powerless to influence actions in another club's stadium.

The club said in a statement: "Millwall Football Club are shocked and disappointed that charges have been profferred against us in respect of events that took place at West Ham United on Tuesday 25th August 2009.

"We maintain that we did everything in our power with regard to our ticketing arrangements for this game. Furthermore we expressed our concerns in advance about ticket allocations and arrangements in general.

"It was widely acknowledged that none of our supporters came onto the pitch, and indeed the behaviour and forbearance of our fans brought praise from media observers on the night.

"Our question for the Football Association is what can Millwall Football Club do to control individuals' actions once inside our opponents' stadium.

"We have, and we continue to assist the authorities in their investigations into the events of that evening."

West Ham admitted the behaviour of a minority of fans was "appalling" but that they had closely followed police advice.

A West Ham spokesman said: "We are reviewing the FA charges and will respond accordingly.

"In advance of the Millwall match, the club followed the strict advice of the police and relevant authorities at every stage of the planning process.

"That full co-operation continued on the night with the club working closely with police on a carefully set-out plan that was initiated and approved by the independent safety advisory group.

"We do acknowledge the appalling behaviour of a minority of fans inside the stadium and, in conjunction with the police, will continue to take strong and appropriate action against anyone found responsible."

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