PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has warned football must avoid going back to the dark days of its past after the unsavoury scenes that marred yesterday’s match between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds and which saw former Latics keeper, now with Wednesday, Chris Kirkland, attacked by a fan.
Incendiary chanting from both sets of fans had raised the temperature at Hillsborough and it spilled over when Michael Tonge equalised for Leeds to make it 1-1.
Several visiting fans ran on to the pitch and one man confronted Kirkland before shoving him in the face with both hands, knocking him to the ground.
Taylor told Press Association Sport: “It was a very disturbing incident, and coming in the week with the trouble in Serbia and the attention on racism it’s a time to be reminded that we need even more vigilance in football.
“Football’s with us every day of the year and it’s important that we don’t go back to the bad old days with supporters behind fences.
“There needs to be a full inquiry because of course players can be particularly vulnerable, especially goalkeepers. We need to see positive action from Leeds, the FA and the police.”
The Football Association have already begun an investigation while the police have identified the man who attacked Kirkland but have not yet arrested him.
It has been a difficult week for football following the scenes in Serbia where claims of racist abuse and scuffles on the pitch brought an unsavoury end to England Under-21s’ play-off match.
Then on Thursday Chelsea captain John Terry revealed he would not be appealing the four-match ban and £220,000 fine he was given by the FA for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, prompting questions about whether the English game takes the issue seriously enough.
Taylor believes the negative headlines show a worrying trend, and he said: “We’ve seen elements of this coming back with certain crowd behaviour and player behaviour and it’s important the right message goes out.
“It needs to be a combined effort between the FA, the clubs, ourselves, the players, everybody, like it has been since the 1980s.
“We’ve seen a great improvement in lots of ways but these incidents have shown that the bad elements have not been eradicated.
“We have to make football grounds a safe environment, we want to encourage families and everyone to come. It’s the same with chanting, we have to work really hard with education but also strong punishments.”
Kirkland was able to complete the game after treatment but revealed his shock at the incident in a statement released today.
Taylor added: “I know him well. It was obviously very distressing for him. We’re fortunate he’s not been injured.
“I remember very well the Monica Seles stabbing in tennis and things like this make you aware of the vulnerability of players.”