Pitch invasion chaos prompts English FA investigation (VIDEO)

Reuters / Darren Staples
England’s Football Association has opened a police-backed inquiry into security lapses which allowed thousands of fans to pour out onto the pitch at Aston Villa’s cup tie derby against West Bromwich Albion.

“There is no progress on last night except the FA knows about it and intends to look into it thoroughly,” an FA spokesman told the media on Sunday.

West Midlands Police has begun its own investigation into a ruckus at a pub near the ground ahead of the match, as well as the subsequent loss of control.

“During the course of the operation 17 men were arrested for various public order offences. An investigation has been launched to identify people involved in a disturbance before the match at the Witton Arms pub,” it said in a statement.

“We will also be supporting the Football Association to identify people involved in pitch invasions that happened at the end of the match.”

Villa was on course for its second win over its rival in the past week, when agitated West Brom fans began to tear out plastic seats and hurl them at the supporters below.

But, the home side was 2-0 up, when its supporters broke through the ranks of the match day stewards and ran onto the Villa Park pitch. Booing resounded from the stands above, and the match had to be suspended, as the referee tried to regain control.

Once the final whistle was blown in the quarter-final, several thousand supporters surged onto the grass, crowding the players from both sides, as they attempted to make a hasty escape into the tunnel.

“It was very, very scary. My armband got nicked, someone got my left boot, but I could appreciate the relief the fans are feeling after a result like that,” captain and scorer Fabian Delph told the BBC. “People tried to kiss me and were biting me. It was scary.”

Aston Villa, which faces a fine, has apologized for its fans, while West Brom officials say they are “deeply concerned” by the events.

Pitch invasions were relatively common in England, where fans are traditionally close to the pitch, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. However, they have since become rare, as policing, stewarding and fan conduct has improved.