PFA chairman calls for lifetime ban for fans who assault players

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Professional Footballers’ Association president John Mousinho believes that fans who assault players must be banned for life and that football must realize that it has a growing problem with fan disorder.

The Oxford defender insists the worrying trend of violence towards players must be stamped out quickly after a series of recent flashpoints.

A teenager has been charged after three Nottingham Forest players were allegedly assaulted while celebrating a goal in their 4-1 FA Cup win over Leicester.

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John Mousinho is the chairman of the PFA (Tess Derry/PA)

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John Mousinho is the chairman of the PFA (Tess Derry/PA)

Nottinghamshire Police say Cameron Toner, 19, of Leicester, has been charged with three counts of common assault and a separate offense for entering a playing area during a football match.

Rotherham also banned two supporters for life earlier this month after a pitch invasion where Harry Pell appeared to be hit as he prepared to take a penalty against Accrington, with Stanley manager John Coleman saying that he expected the match to be abandoned.

Leicester have also promised to issue a lifetime ban and Mousinho would support blanket bans for offenders.

He told the PA news agency: “I see no reason why a fan should be allowed to return to a football stadium if they enter the pitch and assault a player.

“It’s a conscious choice. The term has to be long enough that people decide they won’t.

“Where fans come onto the pitch, especially where there is interaction with players, the most severe ban and consequences possible from a footballing and legal point of view are necessary. , we encourage that.

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Aston Villa's Lucas Digne and Matty Cash were hit by a bottle at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)


Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne and Matty Cash were hit by a bottle at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

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Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne and Matty Cash were hit by a bottle at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

“From the perspective of the players’ union, when the fans enter the pitch, the first instinct of the players is to protect themselves. The instruction is that the players stay away, but if someone runs at you, you not sure if he is coming for a selfie or if he has a knife.

Last month, Lucas Digne and Matty Cash were hit with a plastic bottle celebrating Aston Villa’s winner at Everton, while Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was hit by missiles launched from the crowd during their 2- 0 on Tottenham.

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr has been booked for pushing a pitch invader during the Women’s Champions League game against Juventus in December.

In 2019, Jack Grealish was assaulted by Paul Mitchell after the Birmingham fan ran onto the pitch and hit the Aston Villa captain at St Andrew’s. Mitchell was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison.

The PFA is working with the Football Association and leagues to keep players safe, but Mousinho believes safety needs to be reviewed.

He said: “The easy reaction is to say the responsibility should lie with the clubs and the police, but you have to qualify that and say we know the police have an incredibly difficult job.

“It’s also a question of resources. There are only a limited number of police and stewards who can be on the ground. The fans have to take some responsibility, we don’t want to have a situation where we ban alcohol on the pitch. We don’t want to take drastic measures because it’s still a minority of people.

“There is a collective responsibility. We’ve all been to terrain where safety is probably on the back burner.

“I’m not saying it’s right or wrong but you have security guards not patting you down properly, I’ve been on the Premier League grounds where the metal detector went off and no one is coming off really care.

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A pitch invader was pushed by Chelsea's Sam Kerr during their Champions League game with Juventus in December (John Walton/PA)


A pitch invader was pushed by Chelsea’s Sam Kerr during their Champions League game with Juventus in December (John Walton/PA)

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A pitch invader was pushed by Chelsea’s Sam Kerr during their Champions League game with Juventus in December (John Walton/PA)

“It’s a real concern and it’s never really been reported before because most of the time if you have a pitch invader there’s a jovial atmosphere around how many stewards they can escape.

“Now there is one aspect of the violence that is really disturbing. It is truly shocking and disturbing. Hopefully it’s a few isolated weeks in an isolated season, but it’s something we need to get a grip on very quickly.

Mousinho, who replaced Ben Purkiss as chairman last year, is also concerned that fan behavior could drive families away from the game.

The 35-year-old was at the Euro 2020 final last summer where fans charged fences and 2,000 ticketless supporters entered Wembley ahead of England’s loss to Italy.

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England fans on a bus ahead of the Euro 2020 final (Zac Goodwin/PA)


England fans on a bus ahead of the Euro 2020 final (Zac Goodwin/PA)

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England fans on a bus ahead of the Euro 2020 final (Zac Goodwin/PA)

A government report from Baroness Louise Casey revealed that serious injuries or deaths could have been caused, with drug and alcohol use evident among fans.

“You keep the fans away, especially the kids,” Mousinho added. “There was absolutely no way I would have wanted my wife and kids there, I would have gone straight home.

“The more we have of fans attacking players on the pitch and throwing objects onto the pitch, the less attractive football will become for the general public.

“I’ve seen a lot of things recently around alcohol and drug culture, with drugs in particular having a huge role to play in fan behavior and culturally it’s maybe starting to spiral out of control. The first step is to be aware of it and to recognize that we have a small problem.

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