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Jonny Steventon

Aposto Blog

How does football tackle the issue of pitch incursions?

French football authorities found themselves under significant pressure to respond after a second tier match was abandoned last week.

The game between Bordeaux and Rodez was halted in the 22nd minute after a home supporter invaded the pitch and pushed goal scorer Lucas Buades to the ground. 

A worrying trend

Naturally, pitch incursions are a more common occurrence towards the end of a season – when trophies, promotions and relegations are all at stake.

This season supporters have been seen on the pitch at Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town to name but a few. 

To many people this is simply a release, an understandable celebratory response to promotion or avoiding relegation. 

But for those involved in keeping fans, players and staff safe, it’s a worrying trend. 

In May last year, a Nottingham Forest season ticket holder was jailed for 24 weeks after headbutting Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp following Forest’s Championship play-off semi-final victory. 

In the same week, then-Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira was cleared of any wrongdoing after being filmed in a physical altercation with an Everton supporter on the pitch at Goodison Park. 

Players becoming increasingly concerned

Footballers are often expected to deal with far greater scrutiny than those in most other professions. Some might say it is simply part of the job, but being put in danger certainly isn’t.

Maheta Molango, the CEO of the Players’ Football Association, revealed in the wake of the incidents involving Sharp and Vieira that ‘very high-profile players’ have expressed concerns about the recent increase in pitch incursions.

While supporters running onto the pitch may often seem innocuous and innocent, it is increasingly putting players and staff in danger.

What is being done?

Following previous instances of pitch incursions in this country, the response of the footballing authorities has typically been to release a statement condemning the scenes.

Last month a letter signed by several people – including FA chief executive Mark Bullingham and Premier League CEO Richard Masters – was released, pleading with supporters to refrain from entering the pitch in the closing weeks of the season.

The result? Seemingly not much. What’s more, the authorities know that these statements have little effect.

What can be done?

We’re under no illusion that there is a simple solution to this problem. But we do know what doesn’t work; a top-down ‘don’t do it’ approach will be ignored. 

We believe that it is more about adopting a creative approach, creating digital campaigns that properly capture the attention of supporters and alert them to the potential risks. 

It’s time that everyone started working together and putting effort into preventing this problem.

Player reveal videos and match highlight reels generate almost endless interactions and traffic, so why can’t the same approach be adopted to solve this issue? 

If even a small amount of the effort and resource that goes into these digital campaigns was spent on communicating safety issues, then maybe the end of the season wouldn’t be so stressful for the safety officers we work with. 

They need everyone’s support.

It’s time that football took a new approach to this, before somebody gets badly hurt.

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