Steven Gerrard fears for Rangers players after spate of pitch invasions

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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he fears for the safety of his players after three pitch invasions in as many days in British stadiums.

The former Liverpool and England player said supporters “have to take responsibility” to avoid similar incidents and ensure footballers do not get hurt.

It comes after a Birmingham City fan was jailed for attacking Aston Villa star Jack Grealish during Sunday’s televised derby match.

Father-of-one Paul Mitchell, 27, pleaded guilty to assault on Monday and was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison.

In separate incidents, Rangers captain James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan during Friday’s Scottish Premiership clash, while Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was shoved by an Arsenal supporter who ran on to the pitch at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Gerrard said: “My concerns are my own players and stopping similar incidents.

“I want to talk football but in the last few weeks, we are talking fan behaviour and throwing stuff on the pitch and striking players, for the image of the game it’s not right at all.

“Fans have to take responsibility and think before they do these things because someone will get hurt and we don’t want it to get to that stage.”

Sky News was granted access to a training session in London for a group of would-be stewards aged 18 to 66.

They were warned the “eyes of world are on us” in the wake of the recent pitch invasions.

Mario Garcia, managing director of Achilleus Security, which supplies stewards to Wembley Stadium, QPR and West Ham, said: “If someone is intent on doing it they will find a way. It’s being able to respond to it properly when it happens a lot depends on what their intent is.

“If like on Sunday there intent was to cause harm a lot of pitch invasions are there to make a statement, a spectacle or to just act like a fool.”

Michael Brunskill, from the Football Supporters’ Federation, said there was not enough evidence to support reintroducing fences around pitches as a security measure.

He added: “We don’t want to go back to fences, people died at Hillsborough because of fences, we can’t go back to it.

“Put it in context – it’s one idiot, we shouldn’t go back to the dark days of fences.

“Football arrest figures are at an all-time low, we don’t want people like this to make others think football is not a safe place to go.

“The danger is that after this that normal match-going fans who want to support their teams are being lumped together with this idiot and suffer the consequences of more stewarding.”

(c) Sky News 2019: Steven Gerrard fears for Rangers players after spate of pitch invasions

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