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When 'riot police came and pepper sprayed everybody' at Leicester

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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The infamous occasion when Leicester lost the 2007 Heineken European Cup final to Wasps at Twickenham and the riot police turned up later that night at Welford Road has been recalled by Simon Cohen, the club’s former CEO and long-serving administrator. 

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After 15 years working at Leicester in a variety of roles, Cohen was forced out in 2020 and spent two years on gardening leave. With the issue of his departure now resolved, he has reflected on his time at the Gallagher Premiership club in an interview on The Big Jim Show, hosted by ex-Scotland and Tigers second row Jim Hamilton.   

The 47-minute conversation covered a wealth of stories from his time in the professional game and a look ahead to how it might develop in the next few years as it attempts to move on from the financially damaging pandemic era.  

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Cohen had worked as a solicitor before linking up with Leicester in 2005 and it was when Hamilton mentioned lawyers when speaking about the 2020 exit of Geordan Murphy that the former Welford Road boardroom administrator referenced 2007, the year when the club was denied a treble when beaten by Wasps in the European decider in London. 

Back in Leicester later that evening, things took a turn for the worse and it ended with numerous Leicester players spending the night in police custody. Here is how the chat unfolded between Cohen and Hamilton: 

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Simon Cohen: Lawyers are generally quite boring. I mean, I remember that big night in 2007 where some people, maybe including you Jim, were…

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Jim Hamilton: You can say it’s me.  

SC: …were in the kitchen fighting…

JH: That’s defamation because I wasn’t in the kitchen. It was Henry Tuilagi and Seru Rabini.

SC: …where somebody called the police, where one policeman turned up, looked at it and went ‘oh shit’ and called the riot police. The riot police came and pepper sprayed everybody. Some of the lads spend the night in the nick.

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JH: Guilty. 

SC: I’d gone to bed early. 

JH: How do you deal with that? When people listen to that they think it’s a made-up story. I’ve spoken about it so people think, ‘Well it is made up then’. But that is a true story, that was 2007 when we lost to Wasps in Europe. 

SC: We were on a treble because we had beaten Ospresy in the Anglo-Welsh, beaten Gloucester (in the Premiership) and then in the final leg of the treble, lost to Wasps in the European final. So we had come back to Welford Road and it was a really weird atmosphere because you should have been celebrating a double, a fantastic season going to three finals winning two of them. But actually, on the day, we had been beaten in the biggest final of them all arguably, the European final, so it was a bit of a malevolent mood. You knew something was going to go wrong that night and it’s a pretty volatile mix and so it proved.

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