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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

When The Fire Alarm Rang Out in Cardiff

[As an addendum, when QPR played Cardiff at the Millenium Stadium, there was an issue for Cardiff about the playing of the National Anthem. Wonder whether that "issue" will be replicated at Wembley.]

As Cardiff City set to play Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on May 17, many QPR fans will recall the last time Cardiff played in a Stadium Final. That was the Nationwide Division Two Play-Off Final between Cardiff at QPR, almost exactly five years previously: May 25th 2003. That Playoff final was held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (as the new Wembley was under construction).
For QPR Fans, losing in extra time in a game they deserved to win is part of their history. But for QPR fans what rankled far more than the loss can be summed up in two phrases which have become synonimous with that match: "Fire Alarm" and the "Celtic Mannor Hotel"

To Recap: The night before the playoff final against Cardiff City, QPR Players were sleeping at the Celtic Mannor hotel. In the early morning hours, the fire alarm went off, all the guests were awoken, including the QPR players. It subsequently transpired that the false alarm set off by one Neil MacNamara, previously a "Security Guard" with Cardiff City (also described as "former minder of Cardiff City Football Club owner Sam Hammam." MacNamara Was also described as a "former bodyguard" of Sam Hammam). As The Guardian reported the day after "QPR's preparations had hardly been helped by the fact that they were woken at about 4.15am after Cardiff fans apparently set off a fire alarm at their hotel." The Guardian

As the BBC Reported a few years later: The life-long Cardiff City football fan was given a five-year match ban after magistrates in Abergavenny decided that the crime was intended to disrupt rivals Queens Park Rangers before their play-off game against Cardiff City. But after his appeal Cardiff Crown Court later said there was insufficient evidence to prove the incident was connected to football and lifted the ban." BBC April 2006 BBC - "Ex-minder is jailed for tax dodge"

From BBC June 19, 2003 Ex-soccer minder admits hoax
"...A former minder of Cardiff City Football Club owner Sam Hammam has admitted setting off a fire alarm in the hotel where a rival team was sleeping before a crucial match.
Neil MacNamara, 39, of Nantgarw, south Wales, set off a fire alarm at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, in the early hours of 25 May.
Queens Park Rangers players were staying at the hotel before their Division Two play-off final against Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium later that day.
MacNamara pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage and giving a false fire alarm.
But he denied the offence was football-related in the hearing at Newport Magistrates Cour.
Paul Moore, prosecuting, said: "There will be legal argument as to whether the offence was football-related.
"It will be the prosecution's suggestion this was football-related and we will invite a banning order.
"This will be opposed by the defence."
He was released on unconditional bail to reappear at the court on 16 July, when another hearing will decide whether the hoax was aimed at the QPR players.
Some 200 people had to leave the Celtic Manor while the alarm was investigated.
The QPR players were able to stay inside as they were sleeping in a different wing of the hotel.
The alarm went off at 0300 BST, 12 hours before QPR's play-off final kicked off at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which the London team lost 1-0 in extra time. ...

The Off-The-Field Aftermath

BBC - "QPR Hotel Alarm - Man Charged"

BBC - "Ex-soccer minder admits hoax"

The Times - "Fan says he set off alarm in hotel of rival team"

"Ex Minder Gets Five Year Soccer Ban"

PRE-Fire Alarm Story BBC "Key test for war on hooligans" and BBC Story
BBC - Hammam minder sent to jail

From April 2006 BBC - "Ex-minder is jailed for tax dodge"

Recalling The Game Itself: May 25, 2003: Cardiff 1 QPR 0
QPR Team on that day:
Day, Kelly, Shittu, Carlisle, Padula (Williams 79), Gallen, Bircham, Palmer, McLeod, Pacquette (Thomson 60), Furlong. Subs not used: Culkin, Angell, Forbes.
Manager: Ian Holloway. Coach: Kenny Jackett: Board's Nigel Blackburn and Ross Jones. CEO: David Davies.

BBC Match Report Cardiff seal promotion
Substitute Andy Campbell came off the bench to guide Cardiff past Queens Park Rangers in a nerve-wracking Division Two play-off final.
QPR's defensive partnership of Danny Shittu and Clark Carlisle had managed to shackle Cardiff's 35-goal striker Rob Earnshaw.
But with six minutes to go of extra-time, Campbell proved more elusive...BBC

The Guardian - Bluebirds soar towards top flight

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