Worrying Increase In Security Incidents At Stadia

Everton FC pitch invasion Pitch invasions and fan violence have dogged English football this season, with fans returning in most scenarios with more vigour and abandonment after the covid lockdown break when the majority of stadiums were closed to fans. Worryingly incidents in recent days increased sharply as a very tense season reaches its climax. Since Monday, there have been five pitch invasions, players assaulted, Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira clashing with a fan, arrests made and investigations launched.

The Football Offences Act 1991 says it is an offence for fans to enter the pitch “without lawful authority or lawful excuse”, but with fans of clubs seemingly follow the lead of others, pitch invasions this week became the norm, with vital matches seeing nail-biting moments and overexcited fans looking to make a name for themselves.

Last night, Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with an Everton supporter during a pitch invasion following his side's Premier League defeat at Goodison Park, whilst elsewhere in the country, Swindon Town players were “physically and verbally abused” after their League Two play-off semi-final defeat by Port Vale at Vale Park.

The other League Two semi-final, played on Wednesday, also ended in a pitch invasion with a Mansfield player appearing to be shoved by a fan late on in their win at Northampton. Earlier on the same day, a Nottingham Forest fan was jailed after running on to the pitch and disgracefully headbutting Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp at the end of the Blades' Championship play-off semi-final shootout defeat by Nottingham Forest on Tuesday. The day prior Huddersfield fans had also invaded the pitch at the end of their semi-final with Luton Town!

Invasion of the football pitch at Everton FC The rise in deterioration in fan behaviour has been apparent across the season, whilst safety and security teams are already struggling to recruit well-trained and experienced officers and stewarding teams, with a lack of supply in the industry and also an understandable unwillingness to deal with aggressive and abusive behaviour on minimal wages. Police data from January highlighted that arrests at football matches across the top five English leagues are at their highest levels in years.

In February, the national lead for football policing, chief constable Mark Roberts, said drug use, in particular cocaine, is helping to drive a rise in disorder at matches. On Thursday, the government substantiated this train of thought by announcing anyone caught in possession of or supplying class A drugs in connection with football faces a five-year ban and their passport being taken off them.

However, more needs to be done to counteract this concerning rise in the game within stadia, before someone is seriously hurt. The Premier League, EFL and clubs are receiving advice from the Crown Prosecution Service on how to build the strongest cases possible against fans who attack players. With the EFL stating it was to “consider what further measures are now at our disposal” in order to tackle crowd behaviour.

The FA does have the power to order ground closures, either full or partial, for issues involving supporters, while fines have previously been issued to clubs. The two most significant fines in recent times were West Ham being fined £100,000 when fans went on to the pitch during a game against Burnley at London Stadium in 2018, and Aston Villa being fined £200,000 in 2015 when their fans repeatedly went on to the pitch during an FA Cup tie with West Brom at The Hawthorns. Birmingham City were fined £42,500 when a fan entered the playing surface and assaulted then Aston Villa player Jack Grealish during a derby game at St Andrews in March 2019.

Stoke City FC Pitch Invasion