We’ve seen some disturbing scenes involving pitch invasions towards the end of this season, and it’s surely time for something to be done about it.
Sheffield United player Billy Sharp was headbutted and knocked to the ground by a Nottingham Forest fan, Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira got into a scuffle with an Everton supporter on the pitch at Goodison Park, and Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was also charged into by several Manchester City fans as they took to the Etihad Stadium pitch to celebrate their Premier League title victory at the weekend.
Speaking exclusively to CaughtOffside, former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick admits he’s worried about this rise in serious incidents happening with pitch invasions, and has called for strong punishments to be handed out to the clubs involved.
“It’s absolutely disgusting to see that. Some of the scenes really beggar belief,” Chadwick told CaughtOffside. “Footballers are obviously put on a bit of a pedestal, but they’re at their workplace and they need to be protected.
“It’s obviously a small minority of idiots that come on the pitch to cause trouble, the majority are there to celebrate. Still, it has to stop – the police and stewards can’t do anything to stop that number of people – even if there’s a thousand or so police officers trying to stop 20,000 people on the pitch, it’s impossible.
“Something has to change. Footballers have to be safe in their place of work, just like every other industry. Whether that’s clubs being kicked out of a competition or having points docked, it has to be a big punishment to stop it. If fans attack a player they need to know it’s going to cost their club.
“It can’t keep happening or it’s only a matter of time before we see something really awful happening. The Billy Sharp incident was absolutely sickening, he ended up with stitches on his chin, and all he was doing was standing there minding his own business. The behaviour of those idiotic few is going to lead to someone getting seriously hurt in the future.”
Chadwick himself has been involved in similar scenes in the past, though he has thankfully never personally suffered at the hands of a few rogue fans.
Still, during his MK Dons days, he recalls that Huddersfield supporters stormed the pitch after a game and hit his team-mate Alan Smith.
“I remember one game I was involved in, a playoff semi-final for MK Dons against Huddersfield. I was quite lucky to be near the tunnel so I went straight off quickly, but I remember Alan Smith came into the dressing room and he’d been hit by a fan,” Chadwick said.
“It’s been happening for years, but it does seem to be getting worse. People just seem to want to get on telly and show off to their mates, and it has to stop.
“You can’t stop one person doing it so I think there need to be punishments for the club. Footballers are human beings and they deserve to be protected when they’re at their place of work.”