Pitch invasion fears leaving players worried as Premier League and EFL season finale draws near

A Barnsley player was attacked after Portsmouth fans invaded the pitch in celebration of their side's promotion to the Championship
Portsmouth fans celebrate on the pitch after their team secured promotion with a late winner after the Sky Bet League One match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth. Picture date: Tuesday April 16, 2024. -Credit:PA Wire/PA Images

Players are still worried about the repercussions they could face if they defend themselves from pitch invaders.

There is still significant unease among players after Sheffield United forward Oli McBurnie was charged with assault after a fan invaded the pitch at the end of their Championship play-off second leg against Nottingham Forest in 2022.

McBurnie was acquitted in December of that year, but the Professional Footballers' Association has acknowledged in an email to players, seen by the PA news agency, that concerns remain as the season enters the period where pitch invasions have historically been most common.

It told members in the email that it has taken legal advice regarding the rights of players in such circumstances.

Players have also been urged to contact the PFA in advance of matches if they do not feel they have been given sufficient information on the security plan, or do not think their concerns are being dealt with properly.

Less than a week ago a Barnsley player was attacked after Portsmouth supporters invaded the pitch to celebrate their promotion to the Championship, following on from similar incidents in previous seasons.

"Pitch invasions are an issue which always have a higher profile at this time of the season, but we consistently have members raising concerns with us about pitch invasions and player safety," a PFA spokesperson said. "We've already seen players confronted during pitch invasions at games in the past few weeks.

"The enormous majority of fans know how to behave themselves but the concern is always there that it only takes one incident for someone to get badly hurt.

"We all accept that it's an incredibly difficult job and we've worked with the authorities to highlight some of the specific concerns players have so that they can be addressed.

"When players go into these big games they need to have confidence that the proper measures are in place to keep them safe. If that doesn't happen, it needs to be properly dealt with."