Brann behind eight-ball as Everton in clear despite fan invasion

Everton will almost certainly be exonerated over a pitch invasion by a small group of their fans in their Uefa Cup last-32 match at SK Brann on 13 February but the Norwegian club will face charges for that and for the "curious incident of the eight-ball", a reference to a pool ball thrown at Everton's goalkeeper, Tim Howard, during the game, The Independent can reveal.

Uefa has been conducting a formal inquiry into the pool-ball incident, but, according to a senior Uefa source, the investigation was initially hampered because neither the referee, Bulgaria's Anton Genov, nor the Uefa delegate at the game, Liechtenstein's Reinhard Walser, mentioned it in their match reports.

The incident only came to wider attention the morning after the game when a Norwegian newspaper, Bergensavisen, ran a front-page story, headlined "Scandal", above a photograph of Everton's captain, Phil Neville, handing the pool ball to Genov with an incredulous look on his face.

Uefa waited in vain for Genov or Walser to mention it, then opened their investigation, albeit without announcing it publicly.

"It was surprising to us that the referee did not mention that he was given the ball by an Everton player," the source said. "He told us he could not be certain where it came from, so decided not to mention it at all. That was not very helpful. It's a curious case, and that's why it takes time."

Brann are close to identifying which one of their own supporters threw the ball, which missed Howard but landed nearby on the pitch. The club has been studying video evidence from its own security cameras, and talking to witnesses. "We're quite confident we'll get the person who did this," a club spokesman said. "And when we do, they will be banned from the stadium for life."

Uefa has yet to be handed Brann's footage, or to receive a reply from Everton following a written request for testimony from the club about the incidents.

Everton might theoretically have been in trouble because about a dozen of their fans invaded the pitch at the end of their 2-0 win. But Brann are likely to be the ones in the dock as the host club who failed to provide adequate stewarding.

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