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Features

English football introduces strict stadium sanctions ahead of new season

Fans involved in pitch invasions at football matches in England will now automatically receive stadium bans and be reported to the police under new measures introduced by governing bodies.

The FA, Premier League and English Football League (EFL) have combined to introduce new measures and stronger sanctions across the game in the wake of a series of pitch invasions and incidences of bad behaviour towards the end of the 2021-22 season.

The new set of actions – which have been backed by the Football Supporters’ Association – will be implemented across all English football leagues from the start of the new season. They will target activity such as entering the pitch without permission, carrying or using smoke bombs or pyrotechnics and throwing objects – as well as drug use and discriminatory behaviour.

The bodies said that from the start of the 2022-23 season, all identified offenders will be reported by clubs to the police and prosecution could result in a permanent criminal record. The FA will also be enforcing a tougher charging and sanctioning policy for clubs, which will reinforce these measures. 

Furthermore, anyone who enters the pitch and those identified carrying or using pyrotechnics or smoke bombs will now receive an automatic club ban. These bans could also be extended to accompanying parents or guardians of children who take part in these activities. 

“The safety of everyone attending a matchday is the game’s collective priority,” the bodies said in a joint statement.

“We know the behaviours carried out by some fans last season do not represent the majority of supporters and they risk ruining the fantastic experience of a football match for everyone. Therefore, we are working with clubs to highlight the important role that fans, clubs, players and coaches all have to play in helping to create a safe environment.

“Our strong and collective approach reflects how seriously we all view this issue and the severity of the risks. Nobody should be intimidated or assaulted in their workplace. The pitch must remain safe for players, managers and match officials, just as the stands should be for supporters.”

The FA, Premier League and EFL are working with police forces, the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU), and the Crown Prosecution Service to establish a new principle for cases relating to pyrotechnics and smoke bombs, as well as entering the pitch without permission.

This will mean cooperating to achieve a prosecution in these cases will become the default response of the football authorities and criminal justice system.

Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, said: ” Together, English football has introduced new measures and stronger sanctions, for the start of the coming season, to send out a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of illegal and dangerous behaviour.”

Other measures to be implemented include working with clubs to enhance search regimes and the increased use of sniffer dogs at grounds.

The bodies will also work with broadcasters and social media platforms to discourage the further growth or acceptance of these behaviours across English football. This includes working with social media platforms to establish new ways of quicker removal of fan-generated videos of illegal behaviour at matches.

Richard Masters, Premier League chief executive, said: “These new measures are a strong response to a significant increase in fan behaviour issues, but we know it is the minority who have behaved unacceptably and unlawfully. Premier League football should be a fantastic experience for everyone and we don’t want matches to be marred by these sorts of events in the future.”

The culmination of the 2021-22 Premier League season saw Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen attacked as Manchester City fans celebrated their Premier League title triumph by invading the pitch at the Etihad Stadium.

Everton’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace, which secured Premier League safety for the home club, was also marred by pitch invasions at Goodison Park, while the visiting team’s manager, Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with a fan as he exited the pitch following the final whistle.

Image: Biloblue/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size