Football League club supporters have been warned that tougher sanctions for pitch invasions are on the way after a series of unrest towards the end of the season.
The play-off semi-finals in particular were marred by trouble as a Nottingham Forest fan was jailed for 24 weeks after attacking Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp.
Police investigations into player assaults at Northampton v Mansfield and Port Vale v Swindon are ongoing, while a 16-year-old boy admitted assaulting a Scunthorpe player during a pitch invasion at Bristol Rovers at the end of the regular League Two season on May 7th.
EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said that while most people came onto the pitch for reasons of celebration, “provided cover for a few ruthless few who wanted to cause damage”, and warned that the pitch invasions simply had to stop.
“There must be no blurring of lines or ambiguity in this matter. Simply put, the pitch is for the competitors and the stands are for the spectators,” Birch said in an open letter to fans posted on the league’s website.
“The EFL will be working with the various authorities on a range of measures during the closed period to reinforce that message and address the challenge that the game poses.
“As part of this work, the introduction of tougher but proportionate sanctions must now also be considered with your respective club early next month.
“For our part, we need to discuss what further measures could be put in place for the new season, including the potential use of capacity reductions, fines or other similar mitigations.
“The quickest and easiest solution to the problem is for all fans to think before they act and leave the field to allow teams to play the game. That way there is no need for authorities to get involved and everything can be settled on the pitch as it should be.”
The EFL board is due to meet on June 8, with the league’s annual general meeting two days later.
Birch praised the majority of fans for supporting their clubs in the right way during the 2021/22 season.
“In the early months of the season you have dealt with the uncertainty of Covid protocols, Covid passports and Covid postponements through the winter but despite these challenges you have returned to once again appear in large numbers for your clubs,” he said .
“Together you have walked through the turnstiles almost 20 million times at our competitions and your support has been vital for clubs as they rebuild their finances after a difficult few years.”