Club sold alcohol to minors – claim

A FOOTBALL club is at risk of closure after being accused of selling booze to underage children at a party which descended into mayhem.

Police have accused Great Cornard Football Club of failing to protect children from harm, acting responsibly and of preventing public nuisance.

The accusations follow an incident on April 13 in which police found more than 100 “intoxicated teens” on the football pitch and which left a number of young people injured.

Suffolk police, which described the incident as “large-scale disorder”, have instigated a review on the club’s premises licence which will be decided by Babergh District Council at a meeting of its licensing sub-committee next month.

A report prepared for the meeting includes a statement from club secretary Chris Symes which says: “In the event of the club licence being withdrawn, the club that has been in existence since 1964 will no longer be able to operate.

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“Regarding the sixth-form party on April 13 we tried extremely hard to make sure we complied with the law.

“I can assure you there was no trouble during the evening at all. In fact I don’t think I even heard a swear word all evening.

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“I feel on this occasion we did everything possible to control the function and it only got out of hand in the country park car park 200 yards away from our club under the watchful eye of the police who were there the whole time during the incident.

“I feel that it is harsh that we get our licence reviewed for something out of our building and impossible for us to control.

“On the down side and probably due to the current lack of disposable income most of the students who attended had been drinking cheap alcohol before they arrived and had no money to spend at our bar, the takings on the evening were evidence of this.”

Also included in the report was a statement made to the police by the organiser of the party, a sixth-form student at Great Cornard Upper School who was not named, who claimed the reason the till looked “normal’’ was because of a drink ticketing system.

She said: “Symes told me at the beginning of the party ‘do not let anyone in unless they buy a drink ticket’.

“Symes was fully aware that the average age of the party attendees would be 17-18 years, a majority being under 18 years.

“Symes expressed that the event was going to be a moneymaker for him.

“Chris Symes initially stood at the door selling his drinks tickets, they were �5 and �10 to purchase, the ticket allowed the purchaser to go to the bar and exchange the tickets for drinks.

“The money for the ticket sales did not go through the bar till.

“This scam was so that if police attended and checked the till, then sales would look normal and not overboard considering most party-goers were under 18.”

In her statement, she also described seeing somebody being punched in the face in front of the bar.

In a separate witness statement to police included in the report, a 17-year-old at the event said: “Everyone was buying alcohol, and most was below the age of 18.”

In his application for the review of the club’s licence, Pc Gary Pinyoun said: “The safety of the public was clearly not considered at any time from the initial application through to the management of the evening itself.

“There is no evidence that the club have acted responsibly and made efforts to prevent public nuisance or protect children from harm.

“It is my view that the premises are failing to understand and adhere to the licensing objectives and are acting irresponsibly.”

Speaking yesterday to the EADT, Mr Symes admitted the voucher system was used, claiming it was known about by the council, but adamantly denied it was used to sell alcohol to children.

He said: “There’s no way we would serve anybody under age.”

He described allegations that there had been problems in the club before closing time as “lies”.

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