Partial and even full stadium closures could be imposed on clubs in the Football League next season as authorities seeks to crack down on pitch invasions and other fan disorder.
Nottinghamshire police arrested a 31-year-old man after Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp was allegedly assaulted at the City Ground at the end of the Championship playoff semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
The EFL joined the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, and Forest in condemning the incident and said it would look at strengthening its deterrents against supporter misbehaviour.
Addressing the pitch invasion at Forest and similar scenes at other playoff and end-of-season fixtures, the EFL said: “We recognise that this lawlessness is being conducted by a small minority of individuals and that the majority of people attending matches are a credit to their club.
“However, it is not acceptable for supporters to enter the field of play at any time given the EFL’s objective is to ensure our matches remain a safe and welcoming one for all. Therefore, over the summer we will consider what further measures are now at our disposal, including the potential use of capacity reductions or other similar mitigations.”
It is understood all options will be looked at and ordering teams to play behind closed doors has not been ruled out.
The EFL said: “Supporters are reminded that it is against the law to enter the pitch at any time and could result in a club ban and criminal record. More importantly it puts the safety of players, coaches, managers and match officials at risk. It is vital that those playing the game can do so safe in the knowledge that they will not be subjected to violent, threatening or antisocial behaviour.”
The PFA described the Sharp incident as a “senseless assault” and called for matchday security and fan disorder to be reviewed.
Fan disorder has been on the rise this season, with figures from the UK Football Policing Unit released this year showing a 36% increase in reported incidents in the first half of the 2021-22 season compared with the same period in 2019-20.
Sharp described his assailant as a “scumbag” in a social media post but said he would not let what had happened ruin his respect for his former club’s supporters. Forest fans have set up a JustGiving page for money to be donated to a charity of Sharp’s choice to show their condemnation for what happened.