As we approach our final game of the Sky Bet League One season, we must remind you in the interests of safety for everyone inside our stadium, that the pitch is for managers, players, and match officials, while the stands are there for you to support the team.
At the end of the 21/22 season, we witnessed some unwelcome scenes when fans entered the field of play without permission at several grounds. No matter the reason, any supporter who comes onto the pitch is breaking the law and putting the welfare of players, coaches, match officials, club staff and fellow fans at risk.
At the start of this season, the Premier League, EFL and The FA worked with the Football Supporters' Association to introduce new measures and stronger sanctions to tackle anti-social and criminal behaviours, such as entering the pitch and the use of pyrotechnics.
All identified offenders will be reported by clubs to the police and prosecution could result in a permanent criminal record, which may affect their employment and education, and could result in a prison sentence.
The FA will also be enforcing a tougher charging and sanctioning policy for clubs, which will reinforce these measures. Club bans can also extend to accompanying parents or guardians of children who take part in this activity.
When Sunday comes, win, lose or draw, our plea to you is to keep the pitch free for players and the stands for spectators and avoid any unnecessary disruption.
To be clear, if the players must leave the field because of a pitch incursion, there is a genuine possibility that they will not return. This would be devastating and put a sour note on what should be a day of nothing but elation.
The current plan is for the players and coaching staff to do a lap of the stadium to say thank you for your support this season. This is subject to change if supporters ignore the requests to stay off the playing surface.
Manager Joey Barton said: “Last season's pitch invasion after our seventh goal against Scunthorpe was understandable given the extraordinary circumstances of the day - however, I am not sure everyone is aware just how close the referee was to calling the game off because of the threat to the safety of players and officials. If we see a repeat of such behavior, the club will be sanctioned and we don't want that to happen."
Club captain Paul Coutts added: “The players would like to add their support for your assistance in staying off the pitch and - as the EFL statement says - the pitch is for managers, players, and match officials, while the stands are there for you to support the team."