The UK Home Office has issued a statement clarifying that Women’s Champions League matches are covered by football banning order legislation regarding pitch invaders after it was reported that the pitch invader during Chelsea’s clash with Juventus had escaped without punishment.
A man clambered out of the Chelsea end and onto the pitch, filming himself on what looked like a leisurely stroll as no security challenged him whatsoever, before Blues forward Sam Kerr grew tired of the situation and slammed him to the ground.
Even after that, the man was allowed to get up and walk off the pitch in his own time, with two stewards ushering him away from afar.
It is well known within English football that entering the field of play is a criminal offence under
section 4 of the 1991 Football Law.
The regulations state: “It is an offence for a person at a designated football match to go onto the playing area, or any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse (which shall be for him to prove).”
A report The Athletic on Monday morning partially correctly noted that women’s matches are not actually considered as ‘designated football matches’ under those regulations.
However, further clarity arose with an update from the Home Office (via Adam Millington) stressed that Champions League games are actually covered. But domestic women’s football is still not classed as ‘designated’ and therefore does not automatically receive a police presence.
That ‘designated’ description is only given to matches with a history of crowd trouble which may require a police presence, and the current guidelines do not cover women’s domestic football for that reason. It is an oversight that needs rethinking.
Despite UEFA club matches, as well as international women’s fixtures, being protected by the legislation, the omission of domestic women’s games – such as in the WSL, Women’s Championship or other competitions – is alarming all the same. The growth of the women’s game and increased attention only brings greater risk of fan incidents in the future and potential harm.
“We do have to think about player safety,” Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said after it happened.
“We’ve seen in the growth of the game there is this sense of the players being more in demand. It should serve as a reminder to us all in our stadiums and with our stewards we’ve got to put player protection first.”