Eddie Howe fears football could be heading for a tragedy if it doesn’t get tough and clamp down on pitch-invading supporters who have brought shame on the game.
The Newcastle manager delivered the stark warning after a week of ugly scenes that have marred matches across the country, culminating in a post-match altercation when Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was confronted and provoked into a furious reaction by an Everton-supporting yob on Thursday.
Following a recent spate of unsavoury incidents, Sportsmail can report:
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has called for action ‘very quickly’ to ‘avert potential tragedy’
- Police chief Mark Roberts warned clubs may now need to put up barriers to prevent fans getting on the pitch;
- Vieira faces an FA charge amid Palace fury about the behaviour of Everton fans and handling of the first pitch invasion;
- Everton are also in the dock and subject of a wide-ranging investigation into the behaviour of their supporters;
- The FA pledged to review their rules in a bid to tackle the growing crisis and challenged clubs to step up their efforts in the fight to tackle the escalating crisis;
- Players and managers expressed fears about their safety, lack of security in grounds and concerns about what else fans can smuggle in as well as sneaking in flares;
- A man was arrested and interviewed after Sheffield United striker Oli McBurnie appeared to stamp on a supporter during play-off pitch invasion.
ENGLISH FOOTBALL’S WEEK OF SHAME
Huddersfield fans run on to the pitch at the John Smith’s Stadium after beating Luton to reach the Championship play-off final. Luton boss Nathan Jones calls some of them ‘an absolute disgrace’ after he and his team are abused and goaded by Terriers supporters.
Thousands of Nottingham Forest fans invade the pitch at the City Ground, following their play-off semi-final win against Sheffield United on penalties. United’s Billy Sharp is headbutted by a Forest fan who is later jailed for assault.
Two Northampton fans run on to the pitch, throw a flare and confront Mansfield Town striker Jordan Bowery during their play-off semi-final defeat at Sixfields.
Everton secure their Premier League status with a comeback win over Crystal Palace. Thousands of fans stream on to the pitch. One approaches and taunts Palace manager Patrick Vieira, who then kicks out at him.
After their play-off semi-final win, Port Vale fans invade the pitch and appear to physically and verbally abuse Swindon Town players. Swindon manager Ben Garner says, ‘I don’t know where we’re going as a country, it’s absolutely disgusting.’
Matches have featured fans storming the pitch with emotions boiling over this week.
As well as the Goodison Park incident, Nottingham Forest’s Championship play-off victory against Sheffield United also concluded with a pitch invasion — and a headbutt by a Forest fan during the melee left Blades striker Billy Sharp needing stitches.
Howe is concerned about his own safety as he prepares to take Newcastle to his former club Burnley, who will learn their relegation fate on Sunday and with Clarets fans expected to enter the pitch regardless of the outcome.
Howe and Newcastle know the dugouts are on the opposite side of the stadium to the tunnel, and are seeking urgent reassurance over security arrangements.
Howe said: ‘We have to act very quickly because we want to avert potential tragedy. We have to find a way to guarantee that safety, to avert a potential disaster.
‘We’re going into dangerous territory where something could happen in a game that has terrible consequences.’
‘The scenes at Nottingham Forest were shocking, and at Everton as well. I thought it (the Vieira incident) was hugely concerning. I’m not going to lie and sit on the fence and brush it off. I thought it was a concerning moment for everyone connected to football.’
Mark Roberts, the Cheshire chief constable and the national lead for football policing, raised the prospect of putting up barriers as one preventative measure.
‘It is incumbent on us all to look at a range of measures and some might be physical barriers, he said.’
Footage emerged providing a clearer incident of what sparked Vieira’s fury as he tried to walk off the pitch at Goodison Park after his side’s 3-2 defeat on Thursday.
A supporter filmed himself goading the Palace manager, who initially attempted to carry on walking past him before reacting to an obscene gesture waved in the Frenchman’s face.
Nottingham Forest fan Robert Biggs assaulted Billy Sharp after Forest beat Sheffield United
Everton are the subject of a wide-ranging investigation into the behaviour of their supporters
Patrick Vieira faces a possible FA charge after kicking out at an Everton fan on the pitch
Palace will stand by Vieira, who is likely to be charged by the FA, although it is unclear exactly how the incident will be dealt with.
The FA will seek observations from Palace and Vieira, and the London club, who reviewed footage on Friday, will highlight a number of concerns in response. West Ham manager David Moyes on Friday said he too has ‘reacted badly’ to being accosted by a supporter and admitted he is concerned that stewards in football are not properly trained.
‘I’ve had incidents,’ said Moyes. ‘People have goaded me and I’ve made some wrong decisions and hit out and I wished I had maybe turned away.’
Everton’s game with Palace had already been halted due to an earlier pitch invasion following Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late winner — during which Palace striker Christian Benteke was slapped and other players were pushed and jostled when supporters swarmed on to the pitch.
A picture also emerged of Wilfried Zaha being sworn at while Joachim Andersen was hit and abused at one stage by a female fan while he attempted to retrieve the ball.
A picture emerged of Wilfried Zaha being sworn at after Everton’s winning goal on Thursday
David Moyes has admitted that he is concerned that stewards are not being properly trained
Palace plan to question why the game was able to continue without a proper break to calm the situation after the first invasion.
They are also concerned that the interruption created could have impacted the game.
Everton are subject of an FA investigation, including the circumstances of the pitch invasions but also other incidents including suggestions that flares were thrown into the Palace section. Merseyside Police are looking into Vieira’s fan altercation.
Three men were also arrested on suspicion of entering or attempting to enter the ground while in possession of a flare, smoke bomb or firework, while another was arrested for a breach of the peace.
Chief inspector Andy Rankine said: ‘One officer was treated for smoke inhalation after a pyrotechnic was set off close to his face.
‘Those who brought smoke bombs, flares or fireworks into Goodison Park will be dealt with robustly by the police, the club and the courts.’
A man was arrested after Oli McBurnie appeared to stamp on a Nottingham Forest fan
A further seven arrests were made for incidents outside the stadium after the game, where a group threw bricks and bottles at a police car — described as ‘despicable behaviour’ by the force.
The FA have put the onus on the clubs to prevent pitch invasions, but also pledged to review their own rules in a bid to eradicate anti-social behaviour. Ahead of tomorrow’s final day the Premier League issued a reminder to clubs of their protocols.
Meanwhile, a man was arrested and held on suspicion of assault on Thursday before being released after a video emerged of Blades striker McBurnie appearing to stamp on a fan during the pitch invasion after the defeat by Forest.