Sheffield United risk Leeds United sanction as boss slams unwanted incidents v Man Utd

Blades’ defeat to Man Utd marred by pitch invasions as manager speaks out
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Paul Heckingbottom hit out at supporters who invaded the Bramall Lane surface during and after Sheffield United’s defeat to Manchester United on Saturday evening, which risked the club being investigated by the Football Association. Just yesterday United’s Yorkshire rivals Leeds were fined £20,000, with a further £20,000 suspended, for failing to control their fans after a supporter ran into the technical area and confronted Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe last season.

Although there was no such physical altercation this time around, authorities are likely to take a dim view of the incidents at Bramall Lane - which saw one supporter enter the perimeter of the pitch to confront visiting players including Bruno Fernandes and Alejandro Garnacho in the second half of United’s 2-1 defeat. After a delay he was led away by stewards before two more supporters ran onto the pitch from the Kop end of the ground after the final whistle. One appeared to be a Red Devils fan, taking selfies with players including Fernandes before sprinting to the away end and sliding on his knees.

A Sheffield United fan confronts Man United’s stars on the touchline A Sheffield United fan confronts Man United’s stars on the touchline
A Sheffield United fan confronts Man United’s stars on the touchline
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A football-wide crackdown on pitch invasions was implemented recently - in part due to the shocking scenes away at Nottingham Forest which saw United skipper Billy Sharp violently assaulted - with Leeds punished after admitting an FA charge regarding the Newcastle incident. United’s city rivals Wednesday were also fined £50,000 this week after a pitch invasion following their play-off semi-final win over Peterborough United at Hillsborough last season.

FA rule E21 dictates that clubs must ensure that “spectators and/or its supporters (and anyone purporting to be its supporters or followers) conduct themselves in an orderly fashion whilst attending any match” and do not “use words or otherwise behave in a way which is improper, offensive, violent, threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting or provocative.”

Sub-section E21.3 also says clubs must ensure fans do not “encroach on to the pitch or commit any form of pitch incursion.” The Football Offences Act 1991 makes running onto the playing area at a “designated football match” an offence, but also, perhaps crucially, covers “any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse.”

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Although the FA have not yet confirmed whether they will open an investigation into the incidents, Heckingbottom spoke out after the game. “We don’t want to see that,” the United manager, who has been vocal on the issue of pitch invasions in the past, said. “It concerns me because we’re at work. You have heard me speak about this before. I don’t want our fans to be part of that.

“We want the passion, we want the joy, the intent, the noise, we want that. It looked like the majority after from what I could see were Manchester United fans trying to take selfies with them, but it’s not always going to be that, is it? It shouldn’t be that easy. There should be no intent to go on the pitch whatsoever. We know the rules about it and the changes and there will probably be those enforced now.”

Leeds’ further £20,000 fine was suspended until the end of next season by an independent regulatory commission. The fan who physically and verbally abused Howe in the Elland Road technical area, David Derbyshire, was sentenced to three months in jail in September and handed a six-year football banning order.

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The commission’s written reasons in reaching its decision stated: “All participants are entitled to go about their business on gameday on the assumption that they are safe and protected. In this instance, an individual spectator behaved in a significantly improper manner, gaining access not only to the pitch but also to the technical area, including a physical and verbal altercation with the opposing manager. On any view, that is a most serious occurrence.”

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