Rise in pitch invasions a ‘disaster’ for football, Accrington chairman warns

Accrington chairman Andy Holt has warned this week’s on-pitch invasions are a “disaster” for football, which could result in ticket prices being increased to cover extra security costs or even the return of physical barriers.

With the end of the English Football League’s regular season and the play-offs marred by pitch invasions, the issue of crowd unrest and player protection has taken the spotlight.

Nottingham Forest season ticket holder Robert Biggs has been sentenced to 24 weeks in prison after he deliberately attacked, headbutted and knocked Sheffield United player Billy Sharp to the ground at the City Ground on Tuesday.

In Northampton on Wednesday night, a man took the field and stormed into Mansfield’s Jordan Bowery during the second leg of the semi-finals of the League Two play-offs.

Thursday night also saw ugly scenes with incidents at Goodison Park, where Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was involved in an apparent altercation with an Everton supporter, and Vale Park after fans poured onto the pitches at both pitches.

The Premier League, EFL and clubs are getting advice from the Crown Prosecution Service on how to build the strongest cases against people attacking players on the pitch.

The CPS said it is currently working with clubs, players’ associations and organizations such as the Premier League and EFL to explain what type of evidence is needed to bring charges to help clubs and leagues protect their players.

The EFL has indicated it will study what else can be done to address the problem of crowd behavior and said in a statement on Wednesday: “Over the summer we will consider what further measures are now available to us, including the possible use of capacity reductions or other similar reductions.”

Stanley chairman Holt took to social media Friday morning to urge those fans who can’t control themselves to stay away from games or face the lasting consequences for the game.

“Lately, why have we suddenly had a minority of fans who absolutely suck? This is a disaster,” Holt said in a lengthy Twitter post.

“Great strides have been made behind the scenes to relax rules and restrictions and reduce aggressive stewarding and policing.

“Talk to @EFL regularly about this, who have been understanding of how I want to change how we run games. My arguments now hang by the thinnest threads in the narrow thread land. “If you treat people right, they’ll reciprocate.”

“We tested the mixed fan area, were practically sold out with all the larger L1 clubs and had no problems. My argument is you can’t take people’s hard earned money and treat them like shit, that’s not right.

They ruin the day for many, increasing the club’s security costs and therefore ticket prices for everyone.

Andy Holt

“It’s football F*S, get your act together you complete clowns causing the trouble. You win, you draw, you lose. If you can’t handle it, stay away.

“They ruin the day for many, increasing the club’s security costs and therefore ticket prices for everyone. I do not pay any additional costs because of these stumps.

“As costs go up, tickets go up. Ban them all, put them all in jail, we don’t need them in football.”

In a reply to a reply to his post, Holt addressed the issue clubs face trying to strike a balance between keeping fans safe and on-pitch safety.

“The safety plan is that if there is a problem, fans will get onto the pitch if they have to,” he said.

“What are we doing? We know full well that solid physical barriers can result in a terrible catastrophe. It is unreasonable to expect decent stewards to hold 100 back.”

Port Vale defeated Swindon on penalties to reach the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley.

However, their success was overshadowed by another unsavory incident when some Vale fans immediately ran to the away side – with video footage appearing to show punches being thrown at Swindon players.

Swindon boss Ben Garner claimed his players were physically and verbally abused.

“It’s disappointing what they had to endure to get off this pitch,” he said. “I saw (it) in some of the other playoff games. I don’t know where we’re going as a country, but it’s absolutely disgusting.”

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