Wembley: Brent officials return balloons to Crystal Palace fan
Adam Shaw Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: AB Property
Thousands of balloons that were confiscated by Brent Council before the FA Cup semi final between Crystal Palace and Chelsea were finally returned to a fan who battled to get them back.
Crystal Palace fan Rich Wilsher got almost 30,000 balloons back after they were seized by council workers near Wembley Stadium before the South London side faced Chelsea on April 17. He had hoped to hand out the balloons to fans to release before the match to “create a bit of spectacle” – but was told this could pose a health and safety risk.
Mr Wilsher was fined £100 for his efforts, a decision he said he planned to appeal. He added that he would look to get the balloons back so they could be handed out at a Crystal Palace home game.
The balloons were released at Selhurst Park on Saturday, May 7 before the Eagles’ 1-0 Premier League win over Watford. Mr Wilsher said one of the intentions behind the balloon display was to celebrate the season, which has seen Palace within a shout of finishing in the top half of the Premier League for the first time since 2015.
He said he meant “no harm” when he came up with the idea and was shocked to see the council workers act as they did. He previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “One has to laugh, really. The whole thing is patently ridiculous.
“What irked me the most is that I had my six-year-old son with me and he was a bit upset seeing all these grown-ups in stab proof vests surrounding us. Hopefully he remembers the occasion rather than that isolated incident.”
“It’s about creating a bit of atmosphere, a bit of a spectacle. We wanted to add some colour to what is a big occasion, there’s no harm in it.”
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A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Safety in and around Wembley Stadium is paramount. With the number of people visiting the stadium on match days, balloons in these quantities present a serious safety risk.
“Inflated balloons can block aisles and escape routes, when deflated they can create a slip hazard, and the loud noise when they burst can create panic which is dangerous in large crowds.
“Our enforcement officers spotted people handing out vast quantities of balloons and warned that they would be fined and have the items confiscated unless they stopped. They didn’t stop, and so officers took the appropriate action.”