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EFL clubs could face stadium closures for pitch invasions

Clubs could face stronger sanctions for pitch invasions such as the one at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground on Tuesday night from next season (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Clubs could face stronger sanctions for pitch invasions such as the one at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground on Tuesday night from next season (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Partial and even full stadium closures could be imposed on clubs in the EFL next season as the league seeks to crack down on pitch invasions and other fan disorder.

Nottinghamshire Police arrested a 31-year-old man after Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp was assaulted at the City Ground at the end of the Championship play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

The league joined the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, and Forest in condemning the incident and warned it will look at strengthening its deterrents against supporter misbehaviour over the summer.

Addressing the pitch invasion at Forest and similar scenes at other play-off and end-of-season fixtures, the EFL said: “We recognise that this lawlessness is being conducted by a small minority of individuals and that the majority of people attending matches are a credit to their club.

“However, it is not acceptable for supporters to enter the field of play at any time given the EFL’s objective is to ensure our matches remain a safe and welcoming one for all.

“Therefore, over the summer we will consider what further measures are now at our disposal, including the potential use of capacity reductions or other similar mitigations.”

It is understood all options will be looked at in the close season, and ordering teams to play matches behind closed doors has not been ruled out.

A 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Billy Sharp, pictured
A 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Billy Sharp, pictured (Mike Egerton/PA)

The EFL statement added: “Supporters are reminded that it is against the law to enter the pitch at any time and could result in a club ban and criminal record.

“More importantly it puts the safety of players, coaches, managers and match officials at risk. It is vital that those playing the game can do so safe in the knowledge that they will not be subjected to violent, threatening or anti-social behaviour going forward.”

The PFA described the Sharp incident as a “senseless assault” and called for matchday security and fan disorder to be reviewed ahead of next season.

“We will be raising player safety with the clubs, leagues and the UK Football Policing Unit,” the union said.

Fan disorder has been on the rise this season, with figures from the UKFPU released earlier this year showing a 36 per cent increase in reported incidents in the first half of the 2021-22 season compared to the same period in 2019-20.

Former Forest player Sharp described his assailant as a “scumbag” in a social media post, but said he would not let what had happened ruin his respect for the club’s supporters.

Forest said they would issue a lifetime ban to the individual found to have attacked Sharp, while since the incident the club’s fans have already contributed more than £2,500 to a JustGiving page to be donated to a charity of Sharp’s choice to show their condemnation for what happened.

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