Pitch invasion

Pitch invasion

A pitch invasion, known as rushing the field in the United States, occurs when a crowd of people who are watching a sports game run onto the field, to celebrate or protest about an incident, for example in games of football or cricket.

Rugby union

Pitch invasions have occurred throughout the history of rugby union, with some particular moments being the most infamous. In the past, additional security support has been constructed at stadiums due to foreseen trouble. An early example of this was at the 1924 Summer Olympics, when a wire fence was constructed to protect United States players. During the 1971 Springbok tour, hundreds were arrested after they tried to distrupt test matches between the Springboks and Australia in response to South African apartheid policies. Some people even attempted to saw down goal posts at the Sydney Football Stadium to try and stop a test match going ahead, and in Queensland, a state of emergency was issued following fears prompted from the behaviour of people at the previous tests.

Perhaps the most infamous of pitch invasions at rugby matches occurred at the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand. At Rugby Park in Hamilton, 350 people pulled down a fence to invade the pitch. After arresting a number of people, police cancelled the match as they got word a protester was piloting a light plane to fly around the stadium. The last test at Eden Park was distrupted as a protester dropped flour bombs on the pitch to disrupt the game.

A referee was assaulted during a Tri-Nations match between the Springboks and the All Blacks in Durban. The man involved was fined and banned from attending rugby matches. Another incident, again involving the South African team took place at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia when an intoxicated Samoan fan, with his face painted in the red and blue of the Samoan flag ran onto the pitch and attempted to tackle Springbok Louis Koen as he was kicking a goal in the late stages in a pool match against Samoa. Koen kicked the goal but also managed to inadvertently knock the fan unconscious, as the fan had tried to tackle Koen around the legs but had only been successful in being kicked in the head.

Australian rules football

Pitch invasions have long been a tradition of Australian rules football and, unlike association football or rugby union, these events are rarely hostile or violent (with the exception of an unexpected pitch invasion when the lights went out at Waverley Park in a night game between Essendon and St. Kilda in 1996). At the end of an Australian rules match, it is traditional for supporters to run onto the field to celebrate the game and play games of kick-to-kick with their families. Supporters were once able to do this during the half-time break. In recent years, this has been more strictly controlled at the elite Australian Football League, with security guards on stand-by to ensure that players and officials can safely leave the ground and only after the second siren. Sometimes a mid-game "pitch invasion" is expected for various landmark achievements, typically to celebrate a player kicking a landmark or record number of goals (such as Lance Franklin's 100th goal for the season in 2008 or Tony Lockett's 1300th career goal to set the all-time record in 1999 at the Sydney Cricket Ground) and players are duly protected by bodyguards while supporters flood onto the field.

The now outlawed practice of "streaking" (running naked onto the ground) occurred in many big matches and Grand Finals during the 70s and 80s. The most recent occurrence of this incident was at Darwin in June 2008 in a match against the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide.In the 2008 VFL Grand Final when North Ballarat won, and many spectators ran out onto the field.

International rules football

International rules football, a hybrid of Aussie Rules and Gaelic football is not known for pitch invasions, however a famous pitch invasion occurred in the first test of the 2006 International Rules Series at Pearse Stadium, Galway after Ireland defeated Australia. The game included several impersonators and streakers. At the end of the game, when Ireland had come from behind to win with goals in the dying seconds of the match, the crowd rushed the field, causing much controversy with the Australian players.


It used to be a common occurrence at the end of cricket Test matches for the crowd to invade the pitch to watch the presentation from the pavilion balcony. In the UK this tradition ended in 2001 after a steward was injured in a pitch invasion at a one-day match between England and Pakistan [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1393761.stm] . Invading the pitch can now warrant a £1,000 fine, and post-match presentations are held on the field. On the 12th of June 2008, in a match of Essex and Middlesex, a man made a pitch invasion.

Association Football

Pitch invasions are uncommon nowadays in top level football, but historically it was common for the supporters of the winning team in a major match, such as a Cup Final, to flood onto the pitch after the final whistle. For example, in the famous 'they think it's all over, it is now' television commentary at the end of the 1966 World Cup Final, 'they' were fans who had encroached onto the pitch before the end of extra time.

Pitch invasions are less common in the modern football era than in the 1970s and 1980s. Somewhat surprisingly, it was during that period that fans were barricaded in the stands by fences; after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, this form of crowd control was abandoned, yet pitch invasions became rarer. However, they do still occur, especially in the lower divisions.

Famous pitch invasions include:

* Celtic v Rangers (1909) Scottish Cup. At the end of the (drawn) replay the crowd invaded the pitch to protest at the lack of a result and at the prospect of having to pay to watch a third game. The SFA withheld the Cup.
* Celtic v Internazionale (1967) European Cup. As the final whistle blew, fans of Celtic flooded the pitch in jubilation as Celtic became the first British team to lift the European Cup.
* Hereford v Newcastle (1972) FA Cup. Non-league Hereford beat top-flight Newcastle 2-1 after extra time. There were pitch invasions after both Hereford goals and one at the end of the match.
* England v Scotland (1977) Home International, Wembley. Scotland won 2-1. Scotland supporters invaded the pitch and destroyed one of the goals. The scenes were broadcast live on UK TV, and this is identified as one of the key moments when football hooliganism caught the interest of politicians.
* Celtic v Rangers (10 May 1980) - Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 during extra time and rioting ensued on the pitch at full-time. Mounted police had to break up the battling fans. This led to the banning of alcohol from Scottish football grounds.
* Derby v Fulham (1983) Football League - This match was controversially never concluded after Derby fans invaded the pitch. Fulham required a win to be promoted back into the top flight of English football but despite their protests the match was never replayed and the result, a 1-0 defeat, stood.
* Everton v Wimbledon (7 May 1994) - In an attempt to secure 40 consecutive years of top-flight football, Everton, who had been at the foot of the table for much of a dreadful season, needed to beat the in-form Wimbledon, who had not lost for 10 games in a row. The club's chairman had offered a trip to Las Vegas if they should make it 11. Despite one stand being closed due to construction the atmosphere was known as one of the greatest ever within Goodison Park. Although they went 2-0 down in the first 20 minutes, Everton managed a remarkable comeback to win the game 3-2 and secure survival. A mass pitch invasion ensued and many images of the emotional day were screened on the BBC's "Grandstand".
* Brighton v York (27 April 1996) - Fifteen minutes into this match, a mass invasion of supporters of both teams protesting the Brighton board's decision to sell Albion's Goldstone Ground causes the match to be abandoned.
* Celtic v St Johnstone (9 May 1998) - After 9 years of dominance by Glasgow rivals Rangers in which they had failed to win the league, Celtic had the chance to stop Rangers from winning 10 In A Row and surpassing the achievement of Jock Stein's Celtic side of the 60s and 70s. Goals from Henrik Larsson and Harald Brattbakk gave the Bhoys a 2-0 win, and won Celtic's first title since their centenary season in 1988. Fans flooded onto the pitch after the final whistle at Celtic Park, which was undergoing extensive reconstruction at the time.
* Everton v Coventry City (10 May 1998) - A 1-1 draw and results elsewhere meant Everton survived once more by the slenderest of margins. Fans again spilled onto the pitch in good natured jubilation.
* Reading F.C Vs Wigan Athletic 16 May 2001 Division 2 Playoff - Following a goaless first leg at the JJB Stadium, Wigan took the lead midway into the first half. It was the introduction of Nicky Forster that influenced Reading to score two goals in the last five minutes and seal their place at Cardiff.
* Watford v Luton Town (10 September) 2002 Worthington Cup - 10 minutes before the game kicked off Luton fans invaded the pitch, this provoked the Watford fans to do the same and soon there was a mass brawl on the pitch between the two sets of supporters and the game was delayed for 25 minutes before Riot police regained order..cite news
title = Joint probe launched into trouble
publisher = BBC News
date = 2002-09-11
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/2249877.stm
accessdate = 2007-09-01
* QPR v Crewe (26 April 2003) Football League Division 2 - QPR needed to win this game to pip Crewe of automatic promotion from Division 2. During the game there was a nasty coin throwing incident and a QPR fan tried to attack the referee. The game finished 0-0 and Crewe were promoted and hundreds of QPR fans invaded the pitch and tried to attack the referee and Crewe supporters.cite news
last =
first =
coauthors =
title = QPR braced for heavy blow
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = BBC Sport
date = 2003-04-30
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/q/qpr/2988751.stm
accessdate = 2008-03-04
* Wigan v Reading (8 May 2005) Football League Championship - Wigan beat Reading 3-1 to gain promotion to the English Premiership for the first time in their history. Some unruly Wigan fans assaulted Reading players, although no arrests were made. Regular pitch invasions happened at the JJB Stadium towards the end of a season, especially when Wigan won promotion to then-named Division One. One noted pitch invasion was against Northampton Town.
* West Brom v Portsmouth (15 May 2005) FA Premier League - West Brom defeat Portsmouth 2-0; combined with other results, this completed one of the most amazing escapes from relegation in English football history. West Brom became the first team since the advent of the modern Premiership in 1992-93 to escape relegation after being bottom of the table at Christmas. Once all results came in and West Brom were secure, thousands of Baggies fans at The Hawthorns ecstatically ran onto the pitch. Many Portsmouth fans joined the celebrations, as one of the teams relegated at West Brom's expense were their arch-rivals Southampton.
* Reading v Derby County (1 April 2006) Football League Championship - Reading beat Derby County 5-0 to claim the Championship title one week after gaining promotion to the English Premiership for the first time in their 135 year history. In all 15,000 fans ran on the pitch, although no arrests were made. [http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-8628576161556378011]
*Leeds United v Ipswich Town (28 April 2007) Football League Championship - Leeds United needed a win to remain in the fight for safety from relegation to third-tier football, and things started well when they took a 1-0 lead. However, in the last 5 minutes of normal time, Ipswich equalised, condemning Leeds into third-tier football for the first time in their history. In the first minute of injury time, Leeds fans invaded the pitch, going straight towards Ken Bates, their controversial chairman at the time, before heading towards the Ipswich fans. After half an hour of the invasion, police finally got involved, and sent the invaders back to their seats; some were removed from the stadium.
*Southampton V Sheffield Utd (4 May 2008) Football League Championship Southampton went into this game in the bottom three, needing to better Leicester's result at Stoke to survive. The Saints battled from one goal down to take the match 3-2, despite finishing the match with 10 men. As Leicester was held to a draw, Southampton were safe. Jubilant fans invaded the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate the huge victory.
*Stoke v Leicester (4 May 2008) Football League Championship. A 0-0 draw at the Britannia Stadium was enough to confirm Stoke City's return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 23 years. An estimated 18,000 jubilant Stoke fans flooded the pitch. Leicester City in stark contrast were relegated to League One at the same time.
*Birmingham v Blackburn (11 May 2008) Barclays Premier League. Despite a 4-1 win for Birmingham, they were relegated to the Football League Championship, after the final whistle fans invaded the pitch in protest against the board. The fans also damaged the ground by pulling down the goalposts.

American sports

In the United States, a pitch invasion is known as "rushing the field." This is especially common in college football when a team pulls off a major upset, defeats a major rival or notches a history-making win. Many schools employ riot police to physically prevent fans from rushing the field, a controversy in and of itself. However, with the widespread advent of artificial turf such as FieldTurf some schools are becoming more lax about students invading the pitch. In baseball, a pitch invasion is typically undertaken by one or a small number of attention seeking fans or pranksters, rather than a large number of people. Almost universally, the perpetrator will be ejected from the ballpark. Often, in cases when a game in broadcast on television and a person or small group rushes the field in either the guise of being disorderly and aggressive or attempting to streak, the broadcaster will cut to another camera shot elsewhere in the stadium, to the announcers in the press box, or to a commercial break instead of focusing on the person, trying to refuse to give attention to their behavior and discourage imitators who might try the same thing.

College basketball has a similar phenomenon, known as "storming the court". This normally happens for the same reasons as storming the field in college football, and is somewhat "de rigueur" on the lower levels of the sport (in some gyms, the only way to exit from the stands is to go on or near the court). However, more recently some conferences have begun cracking down on "excessive" court invasions: for example, when Tennessee fans stormed the court after a major victory over then-#2 ranked (and eventual national champion) Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2006, the Southeastern Conference fined the Vols athletic department $25,000 for "failure to control its fans".

Famous field invasions

* Kansas City Royals vs. New York Yankees (14 October 1976; American League Championship Series): Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off home run in game five of the series to send the Yankees to their first World Series in twelve seasons. Fans rushed onto the field while Chambliss circled the bases. The scene was so frenetic that Chambliss himself wasn't even sure he touched home plate in the chaos, and had to be escorted back onto the field after fans had left to step on home plate in view of the home plate umpire.
* Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox (12 July 1979; American League): In a promotion famously known as Disco Demolition Night fans were invited to bring disco records with them to Comiskey Park. The records would then be destroyed in between games of a doubleheader. Fans were so caught up in the anti-disco mania that a near-riot broke out and the second game had to be cancelled. The game was eventually forfeitted by the White Sox.
* University of California, vs. Stanford University (20 November 1982; Pacific Ten football): In the final seconds of the 1982 Big Game against the University of California, Berkeley (Cal), band members (as well as players from both teams) ran out onto the field, thinking the game was over. Cal players lateralled the kickoff back and forth, with Cal's Kevin Moen dodging through the band for a winning touchdown, which he ended by running over trombone player Gary Tyrrell in the end zone. "The Play" is celebrated by Cal fans and inspires the ire of many Stanford fans. To this day, it remains one of the most famous plays in American football history. (The game does not end until the last play ends, even if the game clock runs out of time while the last play is still in progress. A penalty was called as a result of "The Play", but it was only because the spectators and band members had crowded onto the field while the game was in progress.)
* LSU vs. Kentucky (9 November 2002; SEC football): Kentucky looked as if they would pull off a home upset of the Tigers when they held a 30-27 lead with two seconds left and LSU with the ball at their own 26-yard line. As Quarterback Marcus Randall heaved a Hail Mary pass downfield, fans rushed onto the edges of the field ready to celebrate Kentucky's victory. However, the pass was deflected off two Wildcat defenders and into the hands of LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson, who was able to run into the end zone to cap a 33-30 win for LSU and leaving the fans on the field stunned at the turn of events. The play would come to be known as the Bluegrass Miracle.

Rugby league

In New South Wales Rugby League matches up until the 1980s, spectators often took to the field on the completion of the match within seconds after the final siren. This required the players to navigate through a crowd of people when coming off the field, and the cardboard corner posts were usually "souvenired". In time this practice was discouraged - the publicly viewable game clock stopped with five minutes to play in order that spectators, not knowing when the game was about to finish, could not jump the gun and enter the playing arena with the game unfinished. Eventually the traditional died out, no spectators take the field in the present day National Rugby League


'Steward hurt in cricket chaos' - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1393761.stm

External links

* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvop2uVWriE Video of Aussie Rules kick-to-kick pitch invasion Brisbane Lions vs West Coast Eagles game] from YouTube

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pitch invasion — UK US noun [countable] [singular pitch invasion plural pitch invasions] an occasion when a crowd of people who are watching a match run onto the pitch Thesaurus: audiences …   Useful english dictionary

  • pitch invasion — pitch invasions N COUNT If there is a pitch invasion during or after a football, rugby, or cricket match, fans run on to the pitch. [BRIT] There was a peaceful pitch invasion after Milan s eighth goal …   English dictionary

  • pitch invasion — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms pitch invasion : singular pitch invasion plural pitch invasions an occasion when a crowd of people who are watching a match run onto the pitch …   English dictionary

  • pitch invasion — noun an occurence where spectators at a sports match rush onto the field, especially in celebration or protest …   Wiktionary

  • pitch — {{Roman}}I.{{/Roman}} noun 1 (BrE) sports field ⇨ See also ↑field ADJECTIVE ▪ all weather, grass, synthetic ▪ waterlogged ▪ cricket, football …   Collocations dictionary

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