Premier League managers react to pitch invasion incidents, with Jurgen Klopp calling them dangerous

Pep Guardiola has asked Manchester City fans to behave if they celebrate the Premier League title, after football was marred by several pitch invasions this week.

On Thursday night, Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with an Everton supporter who rushed onto the pitch following the Toffees’ 3-2 win over the Eagles that secured their Premier League survival.

Vieira was walking across the pitch towards his team’s dressing room at the other side of the ground when an Everton fan approached him, prompting a reaction from the Palace boss. Merseyside Police are investigating the incident while the FA has launched its own investigation into the matter.

The incident came on the same day a Nottingham Forest fan was jailed for 24 weeks for charging at Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp following a pitch invasion by the Championship club after they reached the play-off final.

Meanwhile, Swindon head coach Ben Garner said his players were “physically and verbally abused” by Port Vale supporters who stormed the pitch following his side’s League Two play-off semi-final defeat at Vale Park.

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Patrick Vieira was involved in an altercation with a fan during a pitch invasion after Everton beat Crystal Palace to secure their Premier League status.

City boss Guardiola could see his side crowned champions at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon – which may prompt a pitch invasion. But the Spaniard believes his supporters will be orderly this weekend, no matter what the outcome will be.

“We have to be careful,” he said in a press conference. “What happened at Goodison Park, Port Vale and the Championship semi-final, there are a lot of emotions and happiness there – some alcohol too.

“It’s dangerous and we have to try to behave as good as possible and have the celebrations in the right moment in the right place. I understand Patrick [Vieira] it’s difficult. You never know how people will react.

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Pep Guardiola says Manchester City must enjoy the opportunity to win a game that will seal the Premier League title.

“We are not going to talk about it [what happens if City win the title on Sunday], the fans will behave good either winning or losing.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose side could also win the Premier League title this weekend, said he hopes football can learn from these moments – as he wants fans to be able to celebrate without impacting the players and managers at pitch level.

Speaking about the Everton incident in his press conference, Klopp said on Friday: “In the 83rd minute, some fathers and sons were on, they lose their minds for their sons too, I didn’t get that. It could have been dangerous.

“I’m not sure how you avoid that, I don’t want to judge, I understand emotions but for the other team, it’s dangerous.

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Nottingham Forest fan, Robert Biggs, has been jailed for 24 weeks for assaulting Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp at Tuesday’s Championship play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

“I really hope we learn from that. It’s just like it is. We should make sure absolutely nothing happens. We can celebrate things without threatening ourselves and the opponent.”

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe called on football’s authorities to “act very quickly” following the recent events, though he has no problem with fans celebrating on the pitch providing they act responsibly.

“I don’t mind the celebrational aspect – embracing the success that a team has had is part of football, I’ve got no issue with that,” he said. “It’s the aggression towards the opposition, it’s swarms of people around one or two people.

“That doesn’t sit well with me at all, that’s something [on which] we have to act very quickly because we want to avert potential tragedy.

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Eddie Howe says the game is in ‘dangerous territory’ after the recent pitch invasions and the FA must act now to improve safety.

“I am concerned, I’m concerned for the safety of everyone connected with both teams because it’s not something we want to see on a regular basis.

“The safety of players, referees, managers, coaches is paramount, but we have to find a way to guarantee that safety. We’re there to do a job to the very best of our abilities, but we shouldn’t have to be dealing with scenes that we’re seeing at the end of games.

“The scenes at Nottingham Forest, I thought, were shocking to see and at Everton as well. I think we’re going into dangerous territory where something could happen in a game that has terrible consequences, and I don’t think anyone would want to see that. I think the authorities have to act quickly to make sure we make the grounds as safe as we can.”

Norwich manager Dean Smith believes security at football matches needs to improve to protect players on the pitch.

Seamus Coleman salutes the Everton supporters
Seamus Coleman salutes the Everton supporters

Smith referenced an incident in 2019 while he was Aston Villa manager and his player, Jack Grealish, was attacked by a Birmingham City fan at St Andrew’s during a game. Paul Mitchell was jailed for 14 weeks following the assault.

“It’s a major concern,” the Canaries boss said. “We saw it last night and with Billy Sharp – somebody’s got 24 weeks in jail. I’ve seen it first hand with Jack Grealish when I was with Aston Villa at Birmingham City away. I watched the Swindon players having to defend themselves. It’s just wrong.

“You don’t need to be the cleverest of people to know we’ve got to protect these players and get them off the pitch. I don’t think security-wise we’re doing enough about it.

“I wouldn’t like to see riot police. Conversations with fan groups need to be had to try and police it themselves. We have stewards at games. But I don’t blame them for not getting hurt for around £30 a game. That’s not what football is about. I’m a supporter as well as a football manager. Yes, enjoy the occasion but don’t take it a step too far.”

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Dean Smith says the violent scenes in recent pitch invasions are a ‘major concern’ and fans need to consider their own behaviour.

Meanwhile, Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch says that while he understands the supporters’ passion with it being the end of the season, they must still respect the players and teams in action. “You want to see passion from the fans but respect for the game and the players and teams,” said the American. “Some of these scenes are tough to watch. Our fanbase has been amazing throughout the process.”

Police chief: Pitch is players’ place of work and they should feel safe

The UK’s football policing chief is alarmed by the recent rise in pitch invasions and has described attacks on players and managers as “totally unacceptable”.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Football Policing Lead, said: “It has been alarming to see a rise in the number of fans entering the pitch during matches over the past couple of weeks.

“This has at times resulted in assaults and altercations with players, managers and club staff – which is totally unacceptable. The pitch is the players’ place of work and like everyone else, they should be able to feel safe.

“I know emotions are running high when clubs are getting promoted or avoiding relegation, but having large numbers of fans rushing on to the pitch at the end of the game is a safety risk for everyone, and I would urge all fans to remain in their seats and celebrate in the correct way.

“It is the responsibility of clubs to ensure that fans can view matches in safety and we will continue to work with clubs to see what can be done to help prevent these incidents in future.”

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