The Football Association (FA) said it will work with English football clubs to address recent incidents of fans entering the pitch, vowing to review its regulations to put a stop to unruly fan behavior.
“We are very concerned about the rise in anti-social behavior from fans as we reach the end of the season,” the governing body of association football in England said in a statement on Friday. “Football stadiums should always be a safe and enjoyable space for everyone, and these incidents are completely unacceptable and have no place in our game.
“It is illegal to enter the pitch area in any stadium and these actions are putting players, fans and people who run the game at great risk. This simply cannot continue and we can confirm that we are investigating all of the incidences.”
On Thursday, hundreds of spectators invaded the pitch at Goodison Park in Liverpool after Everton avoided relegation from the Premier League with a 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace. Several people were arrested according to Merseyside police. The post-match melee included an incident between Crystal Palace manager Patrick Viera and a fan.
A video posted on social media appeared to show a fan taunting Viera who responded with a kick out toward the fan. Viera was not arrested and said he had “nothing to say” when asked about the incident in the post-game press conference.
Merseyside Police confirmed they are investigating an altercation on the pitch saying, “We are working with Everton FC to gather all available CCTV footage and are speaking to witnesses.”
Earlier in the match, dozens of Everton supporters invaded the pitch after Everton’s third goal in the 85th minute gave their team the lead.
The FA and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) have both called on football clubs to do more to prevent future incidents from happening.
“Since the return from lockdown, police data shows that incidents of fan disorder have been on the increase, and this has coincided with a rise of assaults on players by fans,” a PFA spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.
“While the broader issue of increased fan disorder requires a coordinated and long-term strategy, the clubs, leagues and police need to put their immediate focus on stopping large scale pitch invasions.
“Encroachment on the field of play is against the law. While the majority of fans may be celebrating, it is clear that for a minority, this behavior becomes toxic, aggressive and dangerous. This scenario has resulted in an unsafe environment for players and club staff. People are at risk of being seriously hurt or worse. The football authorities need to be tough and send a clear message. These are predictable events, it is a criminal offence, and it is unacceptable,” it concluded.
There was another case of fans invading a pitch on Thursday night. Following Port Vale’s victory over Swindon Town to secure a promotion to the League Two play-off final, Port Vale supporters celebrated by charging onto the home ground. The opposing Swindon players were “physically and verbally abused” during the incident their manager Ben Garner told Sky Sports News.
“The club will not tolerate such irresponsible behavior and remains committed to taking the strongest possible action against anyone found guilty of being involved in criminal activities – including barring individuals from future games,” Port Vale said in a statement after the game.”
The two incidents, follow a rise in pitch invasions at English football matches in the last month, according to the PFA. Similar incidents have occurred at Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield, Oldham, Fulham, Bristol Rovers and Bournemouth.
Nottingham Forest supporter Robert Biggs was sentenced to jail for 24 weeks on Thursday for deliberately charging at Sheffield United player Billy Sharp, according to the PFA. Biggs pleaded guilty to assault for headbutting Sharp following a pitch invasion at the end of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg on May 17.
Separately, on May 18 a Northampton supporter barged into Mansfield’s Jordan Bowery during the second leg of their Sky Bet League Two play-off tie, according to the PFA. The moment happened towards the end of the match in which the visiting Stags won 1-0.