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Pitch invaders face automatic bans as football authorities clamp down on crowd trouble

25 Jul 2022 3 minute read
Nottingham Forest fans celebrate on the pitch. Photo Zac Goodwin PA Images

Concerns were raised about safety issues at football grounds following a series of incidents which marred the end of last season.

Supporters who carry or use pyrotechnics or smoke bombs will now receive an automatic club ban and offenders reported to the police, while clubs also face tougher policies and stronger sanctions.

The Football Supporters’ Association has backed the new measures, which are being jointly launched by the Football Association, Premier League and English Football League from the start of the 2022-23 campaign.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said in statement: “The rise in anti-social behaviour that we saw in stadiums at the end of last season was entirely unacceptable and put people’s safety at risk.

“Together, English football has introduced new measures and stronger sanctions to send out a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of illegal and dangerous behaviour.

“It is the responsibility of everyone in the game, including governing bodies, clubs, players, coaches, and fans, to ensure that we all play our part in protecting our game and each other.”

Nottingham Forest fan Robert Biggs was jailed in May after headbutting Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp during the Championship play-offs, while Aston Villa keeper Robin Olsen was assaulted at Manchester City on the final day of the season.

In another high-profile incident during a pitch invasion, Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira kicked out at an Everton supporter after being goaded at Goodison Park.

New principle

Football authorities are working with police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service “to establish a new principle” for cases relating to entering the pitch without permission, as well as incidents involving pyrotechnics and smoke bombs.

Other measures to be implemented include improved searching of individuals entering stadia, increased use of sniffer dogs, and working with social media platforms to quickly remove fan videos of illegal behaviour.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango said in a statement: “The events that took place at the end of last season, with violence being directed towards players and staff on the pitch, were completely unacceptable.

“Players are right to have serious concerns, and the PFA have worked with the League Managers’ Association to ensure football’s governing bodies understand the strength of feeling on this.

“Today’s announcement is welcome as it reflects the fact that this is being taken seriously by those who are responsible for ensuring players are safe at their place of work.

“However, for those on the pitch, we know that this response will only be judged by its effectiveness.

“Consistent and proper enforcement of laws that are already in place is needed. There also needs to be planned and targeted investment in security around games where we know that flashpoints may be more likely to occur.

“Players have been very clear that there can be no excuses for any repeat of these type of incidents.”

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