EFL: We understand fans’ frustrations

Blackpool and Leyton Orient fans will hold a joint protest today
Blackpool and Leyton Orient fans will hold a joint protest today
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The EFL says it supports the right of fans to protest but not if it affects the “sporting outcome”.

It comes after they released an official statement responding to criticism it had received in the wake of its decision to finish Leyton Orient’s game against Colchester United last week behind closed doors.

The match, which was being contested between Blackpool’s play-off rivals and their opponents today, was almost forced to be abandoned after an estimated 750 Orient fans invaded the pitch in a peaceful protest against their owner Francesco Becchetti.

The statement will be of particular interest to Blackpool FC, who have shared concerns this week that Orient fans could try and disrupt their game at Bloomfield Road this week.

A request from the club to suspend all ticket sales to visiting supporters was initially granted by the EFL before deciding to reduce their allocation from 1,700 tickets to 1,000.

The two sets of supporters are also due to unite before the game to take part in a huge demonstration dubbed ‘Judgement Day 3’ to protest against their respective owners.

The statement said: “We would like to reiterate that the EFL recognises that supporters of clubs have the right to protest if they are unhappy and very much understand the frustration of Leyton Orient fans in particular at this difficult time. As we have stated, unless our rules are broken, our powers to intervene are limited once owners are in position.

“Our rules reflect our position as a competition organiser and are derived to protect our competitions, the format of which thrives on promotion and relegation. It is therefore imperative that all clubs play 46 games of 90 minutes to complete a full season and any variation from this brings the legitimacy of the competition into question.

“While acknowledging the right of fans to protest, we cannot support this if those actions ‘cross the white line’ and affect the sporting outcome.

“The peaceful but disruptive protests of Leyton Orient fans on Saturday, April 29 gave rise to significant concerns that similar events could occur at Bloomfield Road for the last game of the season.

“Based on this experience, we agreed that ticket sales could be temporarily suspended until a full review of the security arrangements took place. Once this review had taken place and a satisfactory conclusion arrived at, tickets went back on sale with a number of proportionate measures to reduce the likelihood of the 90 minutes being disrupted.”

The EFL went on to admit it had endured a “difficult week”.