June 18, 2003

ECB to press government to act after pitch invasion

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Celebration at the end of the NatWest Challenge match at Old Trafford - but not one welcomed by the authorities

The post-match pitch invasion at Old Trafford at the end of the first NatWest Challenge game is likely to prompt the England & Wales Cricket Board to call on the government to pass special legislation to combat the problem.

Several hundred spectators ran onto the ground at the end of the game waving flags and banners, with the stewards left as helpless bystanders.

"We'll be looking at the legal situation with the Home Office in the very near future," confirmed David Clark, the Corporate Communications and Events Manager at the England and Wales Cricket Board. "Two years ago they told us to use the legislation which covered aggravated trespass, which they believed would do the job, but there is clearly confusion with every Police Authority we work with. There's also confusion among the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether that legislation is appropriate. It's clear from the experience we've had so far that it's not appropriate."

The government has so far refused to introduce legislation designed to prevent invasions of this kind, leaving ground authorities and the police only able to invoke minor sanctions against offenders.

Clark was, however, keen to stress that the invasion at the end of the game should not hide the progress that has been made with crowd control. "We've not had any problems for two years, we've successfully changed the culture and people have stayed in their seats and stayed off the outfield." But he added: "This was a real test for cricket to see how far it had come in two years and it's a huge disappointment that we haven't been successful here in enabling the game to finish in an orderly way with the players and match officials leaving the field in a safe and secure manner."

Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's chief executive, was disappointed at the scenes, especially as he had arranged extra security aimed at preventing any invasion. "If they have a will to get on, you just can't stop them," he admitted. "It was high spirits, but you always get concerned that there's someone among them who acts with malice. We would have had to have had literally hundreds of stewards or the police to keep them off."