Published: 05:00, 25 May 2022
| Updated: 14:56, 25 May 2022
Kent Police are continuing their investigations into crowd disorder at Gillingham’s final game of the season.
Rivals fans clashed in the middle of the Priestfield pitch at the full-time whistle as supporters from both teams ran onto the field.
Play had already been briefly stopped as Rotherham United supporters entered the field and flares were set off, landing on the pitch.
More than 2,000 Rotherham fans were at the game, celebrating promotion back to the Championship following their 2-0 win while the Gills suffered relegation to League 2.
A police spokesperson said at the time that footage from the match was being reviewed and confirmed this week that “enquiries are ongoing.”
English football has been beset by football disorder following pitch invasions at the end of the current season, leading to bans and even jail terms. It is against the law for supporters to enter the field of play but police and stewards have struggled to stop it.
The footballing authorities say they are looking into ways of deterring fans from doing so, which could lead to partial stadium closures and fines. England's national team were handed a stadium ban by UEFA after crowd trouble at the Euro 2020 final.
The EFL, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the FA have all spoken out in recent weeks about incidents.
In a statement on crowd behaviour, the Football League said: “The EFL condemns in the strongest possible terms the reckless actions of individuals who have brought the game into disrepute with this unacceptable behaviour.
“It is vital that those playing the game can do so safe in the knowledge that they will not be subjected to violent, threatening or anti-social behaviour going forward.
“We recognise that this lawlessness is being conducted by a small minority of individuals and that the majority of people attending matches are a credit to their club.
“However, it is not acceptable for supporters to enter the field of play at any time given the EFL’s objective is to ensure our matches remain a safe and welcoming one for all. Therefore, over the summer we will consider what further measures are now at our disposal, including the potential use of capacity reductions or other similar mitigations.”
The use of pyrotechnics inside stadiums is also a criminal offence.
The English game’s governing body, the FA, said: “We are very concerned about the rise in anti-social behaviour from fans as we reach the end of the season.
“Football stadiums should always be a safe and enjoyable space for everyone, and these incidents are completely unacceptable and have no place in our game.”
They added: “The FA will be seeking to do all that it can to work with clubs as well as addressing the issues from a disciplinary perspective.
“We are also reviewing our regulations to help stamp this behaviour out and to ensure the safety of everyone inside a stadium.”
Gillingham’s season started with an incident inside Priestfield Stadium on the opening weekend which led to one supporter receiving a three-year ban for assaulting Lincoln City player Tayo Edun, after the several opposition players stepped into the home end to celebrate a goal.
Incidents at the end of the current campaign across the country have been frequent.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen claimed to have been attacked after Manchester City fans invaded the pitch to celebrate their Premier League title at the Ethiad Stadium, while there had also been incidents at Everton, Northampton and Port Vale following pitch invasions.
A man was jailed for 24 weeks after attacking Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp at the end of their play-off game against Nottingham Forest.
Following that incident the PFA said: “Matchday security and fan disorder needs to be reviewed ahead of next season, and we will be raising player safety with the clubs, leagues and the UK Football Policing Unit.”
Back in 2013, a Gillingham fan received a five-year ban from football grounds after jumping onto an opposition team’s goalkeeper during a match at Priestfield.