Concerns are growing inside the Premier League over the behaviour of fans at top-flight grounds, after three players were assaulted during last weekend’s matches.
With data showing a rise in disorder across English football this season, clubs will discuss possible responses to an unwelcome trend at a league meeting this week.
On Monday Merseyside police confirmed a 19-year-old man had been charged with assault and throwing an item on to the pitch after Aston Villa’s Matty Cash and Lucas Digne were hit by a plastic bottle at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The Metropolitan police said two men had been arrested after an incident during Chelsea’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, when the defender Antonio Rüdiger was hit by missiles including a lighter thrown from the away end.
Provisional data collected by police and first revealed by the BBC showed there have been 800 arrests at English football matches this season, a 47% rise on the comparative period in 2019-20. There were 759 reports of disorder, which would include the throwing of missiles, up from 560.
The Home Office says that the “interim” data “has not been subject to the same quality assurance checks as end-of-season official statistics”. Official Home Office figures, however, show a stark rise in the number of arrests for missile offences in the past few years, with 52 arrests in the 2014-15 season more than doubling by the end of the decade, and 72 arrests made in the truncated Covid season of 2019-20.
The Premier League is to meet the United Kingdom Football Policing Unit this week. They will discuss possible co-ordinated responses with the EFL and Football Association, although clubs customarily develop their own safety policies in conjunction with local police.
On Monday Chelsea confirmed they were working with police and Tottenham officials to identify any fans involved in the assault of Rüdiger and a spokesperson said “we will collectively take the strongest possible action against them”.
The FA said it would investigate two further incidents of disruptive behaviour in the top flight after a small number of Manchester City fans invaded the pitch at Southampton after the final whistle, clashing with stewards, and a drone flew over the Brentford v Wolves match, causing a delay.
“We are investigating the fan disorder incidents at the Everton v Aston Villa, Southampton v Manchester City and Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur matches,” an FA spokesperson said. “We are also looking into the events involving the drone at the Brentford v Wolverhampton Wanderers match, [and in all matters] we are liaising with the clubs and police.”
Although the FA has no authority to take action against individual fans, it can discipline clubs if they are found not to have done enough to prevent misconduct.