Pitch invasions could mean a hefty fine for football fans – but could tougher sanctions be on the way for clubs?
It’s the stuff of dreams: your team has scored the winning goal, secured a spot at a major tournament, and, overcome with emotion, you and others rush onto the pitch to celebrate.
But could getting carried away at the moment actually be an own goal, which could result in penalties such as a hefty fine for invading the pitch?
A spate of pitch invasions and some resulting violent incidents this week have prompted calls for tighter sanctions, with the English Football League saying it is considering dissuasive measures such as the partial closure of stadiums.
Staffordshire Police say they have been called to investigate a reported attack on a Swindon player during a pitch invasion following Thursday’s League Two play-off semi-final second leg against Port Vale at Vale Park, during the Northamptonshire Police are investigating a field intruder at Mansfield’s Jordan Bowery during a game on Wednesday night.
What does the law say about pitch invasions?
Under the Football Offenses Act 1991, pitch invasions are a criminal offense in England and Wales. The law prohibits spectators from entering the stadium’s pitch.
The legislation states that it is an offense for any person at a match “to enter the field of play or an area adjacent to the field of play to which spectators are generally not permitted” “without legal authority or excuse”.
Throwing rockets onto the field or the area where spectators are, as well as offensive and racist chanting are also criminal offences.
In Northern Ireland, a pitch invasion could result in fans being fined up to £1,000.
Scotland is not covered by the Football Offenses Act and in 2016 there were calls for a debate on the criminalization of pitch invasions after fans clashed on the pitch following Hibernian’s historic win over Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.
What are the penalties for pitch invasions now?
Under the Football Offenses Act, the penalty for intruding on the field of play is a fine not exceeding level 3. According to the Sentencing Council, the level 3 fine is £1,000.
However, clubs could find themselves in hot water with sports bodies towering over their fans invading the pitch.
Last year, Manchester City were fined €5,000 by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body after the club’s 2-1 Champions League win over PSG on November 24 at the Etihad Stadium committed a pitch invasion.
West Ham were fined £100,000 by the Football Association in 2019 for invading the pitch during their match against Burnley at the London Stadium in March 2018.
Could there be partial stadium closures?
The Football Association issued a statement on Friday (May 20) saying the spate of pitch invasions “simply cannot go on” and confirmed it was investigating them all.
The game’s national governing body also said it was reviewing its regulations to help eradicate anti-social behavior at games.
The EFL said earlier this week it was preparing to consider further measures to tackle summer crowd behaviour.
The statement read: “It is unacceptable for fans to enter the pitch at any stage as the EFL’s aim is to ensure our games remain safe and welcoming for all. As such, over the summer we will review what other measures are now available to us, including the potential use of capacity reductions or other similar measures.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association has issued a new statement urging football and police authorities to crack down on anyone trespassing on the field.
“While the majority of fans may celebrate, it is clear that for a minority this behavior is becoming toxic, aggressive and dangerous,” a union spokesman said.
“This scenario has created an unsafe environment for players and club staff. People are at risk of serious injury or worse.
“The football authorities have to be tough and send a clear message. These are foreseeable events, it is a criminal offense and it is unacceptable.”
https://www.nationalworld.com/news/crime/football-pitch-invasions-what-does-law-say-current-punishments-stadium-closures-3703137 Invasions on football pitches: what does the law say?