Football / FA Cup: City may be forced to restore fencing

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PETER SWALES, the chairman of Manchester City, said the club may be forced to restore perimeter fencing to the end of the Maine Road ground from where home fans invaded the pitch two minutes from the end of yesterday's FA Cup tie, writes Joe Lovejoy.

It will be of great concern to Swales, and to the game in general, that the pitch invasion came from a new pounds 6m stand, purpose- built to meet the specifications of the Taylor Report, and officially opened only yesterday.

Ironically, the Platt Lane end at Maine Road was used until this season to accommodate visiting supporters, and had been equipped with fencing which would have prevented yesterday's incursion.

Swales, who described the day as 'my worst in football', added: 'It would break my heart to do it, but we may have to put the fences back up again.' After giving the club's supporters an expensive new stand he felt 'betrayed' by the actions of a 'lunatic minority'.

Swales, who is also chairman of the FA's international committee, will attend today's meeting in London of the FA Council, which will discuss the incident. The FA is likely to fine City for the crowd misconduct, and will also consider a temporary closure of the new Umbro stand for what police call the 'high risk' derby against Manchester United on 20 March.

The pitch invasion followed Manchester City's second goal. City supporters rushed on and goaded visiting fans into retaliation. Play was held up for 12 minutes while mounted police cleared the area and restored order. There were two injuries and 20 arrests.

Superintendent Roger Coupe, the match-day commander, said: 'It could have been a major catastrophe. My officers and the stewards acted promptly, which was very fortunate.

'Fences have been down at football grounds for the last couple of years, and there hasn't been a problem, but it all depends on the attitude and behaviour of the fans. It might be time to have a rethink.

'We estimate that there were more than 200 people on the pitch, which made it a serious incident. I will be sending a report to the Football Association.'

Rick Parry, chief executive of the Premier League, said: 'It is highly disappointing not only for Manchester City but football in general.' Ray Clemence, the Tottenham coach, said: 'It is a tragedy because over the past few years the game has been getting better and better. Now this happens.'