PFA call for protective nets at games

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has called for protective netting to be introduced at stadiums behind the goals, corner flags and dugouts to prevent a “copycat” trend of objects being thrown on to pitches.

A number of stadiums in the Bundesliga and other European leagues already have safety nets in place to protect the players and Taylor believes the incident involving Rio Ferdinand, where the Manchester United defender was struck by a coin at the weekend, is a stark warning that their safety is under threat.

He said: “It could have been career-threatening if it had caught Rio’s eye. There are certain areas that are more vulnerable than others – at corners, behind the goals and behind the dugout where substitutions are made. It’s an option to consider. You wonder if there is a copycat reaction and that’s not good for players or referees. It’s the job of the PFA to safeguard the players.

“If we ignore this problem we ignore it at our peril. It’s trying to keep a check on a pattern. People may think there are sufficient sanctions in place but if that had been a bad injury to Rio I don’t think anything could have condoned that.

“You wouldn’t want anything to restrict the view and we aren’t talking about fences, after Hillsborough. You’ve got to look at technology and see if there can be a way of protection without restricting the view. Safety of players and fans is key.”

Former Manchester City forward Craig Bellamy was targeted by Manchester United supporters who threw bottles and coins when the sides met in the League Cup in 2010, while a mobile phone was launched on to the pitch by a Liverpool fan after Wayne Rooney scored during a game at Anfield in 2005.

The English FA, which condemned Sunday’s ugly scenes as “unacceptable”, and the Metropolitan Police launched separate investigations into how a Chelsea steward was hospitalised after Manchester United’s victory at Stamford Bridge in October. Objects thrown included a seat, apparently aimed at Javier Hernandez.

However, during the 2011-12 season the number of football-related arrests across all competitions in England and Wales fell by 24 per cent to 2,363. Arrests made for missiles thrown on to the pitch totalled 53 for 2011-12, down from 64 the previous year, with 16 made in the Premier League during 2011-12, a decrease of four.

Kevin Parker, a spokesman for the Manchester City Supporters Club, said: “In 40 years of watching football it’s the first time I’ve seen that sort of thing happen at City. I don’t think the introduction of netting is the right way forward for football. I’ve watched games in Europe with netting and it makes you as a supporter feel like a second-class citizen. ”

Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, added: “Netting is not something we feel is necessary. No one condones the throwing of missiles but arrests last season were 24 per cent down on previous seasons and not many social phenomenon alter that much.”

Meanwhile, the City fan who ran on to the pitch to try to confront Ferdinand faces a lifetime ban from the club despite his apology. City confirmed that Matthew Stott, 21, has had his season ticket removed for the rest of the season and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in court of a charge of pitch encroachment.

Stott, described by his solicitor as “not a stereotypical drunken football fan”, said in a statement he would be writing to Ferdinand to apologise.

Greater Manchester Police yesterday confirmed nine people had been charged in connection with trouble at the game.

Among the charges faced by the nine people are racially aggravated public order and pitch encroachment. Police are still hunting for the person who threw the coin.

Guardian Service

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