The increasing number of pitch invasions last season have led to the Football Association, Premier League and EFL joining forces to clamp down on fan-led disorder.
Representatives from the three organisations have sat down to discuss new preventative measures ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, and all have agreed that pitch invaders and those who bring pyrotechnics into English football stadiums will be banned for an as-yet undetermined period.
The move comes as supporter behaviour has grown increasingly violent and chaotic in recent seasons, with the disorder at the Euro 2020 final – which police chiefs revealed endangered life – followed by a series of high-profile pitch invasions that saw the likes of Robin Olsen and Billy Sharp attacked by opposition fans.
The chief executive of the FA, Mark Bullingham, believes that the new sanctions will help to ‘protect’ the English game.
“The rise in anti-social behaviour that we saw in stadiums at the end of last season was entirely unacceptable and put people’s safety at risk,” he 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.”
It’s a picture that is reflected in other countries around the world, with games abandoned in France’s Ligue 1 due to fan violence and fights that have led to deaths at fixtures in Brazil and Mexico.
The Football Association has opted to sanction both individuals and the clubs they support in their new measures, with the hope that it might act as a deterrent to pre-planned bad behaviour.
It is already an offence to invade the pitch as per the Football Offences Act (1991), but prosecution is often difficult to meter out when the invasion involves thousands of fans.
But the Premier League, EFL and the FA have agreed to punish as many fans that encroach on the pitch as possible in a bid to crack down on a situation which, left unchecked, could see a player seriously injured in an on-field fracas with a supporter.
In addition, they will look to stamp out the use of pyro, smoke bombs and fireworks on the terraces, with those responsible banned and also reported to the police. Football chiefs have also written to the government’s policing minister to request a change in the current rules, which allow anybody over the 18 to purchase such incendiaries over the counter.
To improve the overall experience and safety of supporters, all of the competitions under the Premier League and EFL’s remit will increase the number of stewards and sniffer dogs present at grounds, ask away clubs to bring their own stewards to marshal that section of the stadium, potentially ban accompanying parents of minors that break the rules and lobby social media firms to ban the uploading of images and videos that contain fan disorder.
“If we don’t take collective and sustained action, it may only be a matter of time before someone is seriously injured, or worse,” said the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters.