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Stoke City fans invade the pitch at the Britannia Stadium to celebrate promotion to the Premier League in 2008.
A police officer tackles a lone field invader at a 2011 Baltimore Orioles game.

A pitch invasion, also known as field storming or rushing the field/rushing the court, occurs when a person or a crowd of people spectating a sporting event run onto the competition area, usually to celebrate or protest an incident, or sometimes as a publicity stunt. Consequences for participants can result in criminal charges, fines or prison time, and sanctions against the club involved, especially if they cause a disruption in play, although they may sometimes be more welcomed if a large portion of the spectators invades the pitch simultaneously outside of playing time.

American football

Ecstatic Washington Huskies college football fans storm the field in celebration after defeating the heavily favored No. 3 USC Trojans in an upset.
Houston Cougars football fans rushing the field after defeating rival Texas Tech in 2009
Oregon State football fans prepare to rush the field in a historic upset of #3 USC in 2006

This is especially common in college and high school football when a team pulls off a major upset, defeats a major rival, ends a long losing streak or notches a history-making win. With the widespread advent of artificial turf, some schools have become more lenient about students invading the pitch. In the last few years, goalposts are also taken down within moments of the end of the game as a cautionary measure to prevent fans from climbing atop them to cause damage to the standard holding them up, damage to television camera equipment on the posts, and spectator injury. In the National Football League, rushing the field usually results in a lifetime revocation of season tickets from the holder of them, even if given or sold to another person, along with a lifetime trespassing notice banning the rusher from the team and/or stadium property, or in cases of multiple rushes, other league stadiums.

Incidents

Southeastern Conference penalties

Section 10.5 of the Southeastern Conference By-Laws has a progressive fine policy adopted in 2004 for major sports: $5,000 for the first offence, $25,000 for the second offence, and $50,000 for third and subsequent offences within a three-year period of the last pitch invasion. In May 2015, the fines increased to $50,000; $100,000; and $250,000 for the first, second, and third plus subsequent offences, respectively, with a period for past violations being increased from three years to five. In 2023, the fines were respectively further increased to $100,000; $250,000; and $500,000 and changed so the fine would be paid to the opposing institution for conference games (nonconference games continued to have the fine paid to the SEC's scholarship fund), with each team also being given a clean slate.

Generally for an upset situation however, the fine (which in college sports is usually a donation to a conference's scholarship fund rather than a punitive payment, as is the course for the SEC) is taken as a "badge of honor" by the school and its fanbase that knows the cost of storming well in advance, and fans and the school's booster club proudly donate the funds to a school's athletic department needed to pay the fine, along with the secondary cost for the replacement of damaged or removed goalposts.

The Kentucky Wildcats were hit with "the triple" for three football pitch invasions within eleven months, involving upset wins against league powers and an in-state rival:

Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri had been fined $25,000 for second offence violations, but most SEC schools were fined $5,000. Missouri's fine is notable in that their second violation occurred after only three years as a member of the SEC: both came when supporters flooded Faurot Field after the team clinched a trip to the SEC Championship Game, in 2013 and 2014.

LSU was fined $100,000 for a second offense following its victory 13 October 2018 vs. Georgia. Its first offense was 25 October 2014 following a victory over Ole Miss, drawing just a $5,000 fine. LSU fans twice tore down the goalposts in 2000, following victories over Tennessee and Alabama, but did not invade the Tiger Stadium pitch again until 2014. The goalposts remained intact during the 2014 and 2018 incidents.

Auburn became the first SEC institution to be fined the maximum of $250,000, following its football victory over Alabama on 25 November 2017. This came on top of violations following Auburn victories over Alabama in football in 2013 and Kentucky in men's basketball in 2016.[7] Auburn was fined another $250,000 after fans stormed the field following its Iron Bowl victory on 30 November 2019.

Arkansas was fined $250,000 when its fans stormed the field after a victory over Texas on 11 September 2021. Two weeks later, Kentucky was hit with a $250,000 fine following a victory over Florida, the Wildcats' first home win over the Gators since 1986.

In 2022, LSU was hit with two $250,000 fines following successive home wins vs. Ole Miss and Alabama. The goalposts remained standing following both incidents.

Missouri became the first institution to be fined $100,000 for a first offense following a last-second upset win over #15 Kansas State after the game ended on an SEC record 61-yard successful field goal. Ole Miss became the second two weeks later when it defeated LSU. The Rebels were fined an additional $75,000 for fans throwing debris onto the field at various times during the game.

Other conference penalties

Other conferences have similar by-laws; in some conferences, the pitch invasion rule is reset to zero after five years without a pitch invasion, and the fine is doubled in the event that a player or official is injured as a result of the pitch invasion.

However, more recently, some conferences have begun cracking down on pitch invasions in all sports.

Tearing down the goal posts

There has long been a tradition in American football – primarily in college football – under which fans celebrating a major victory will tear down the goal posts on the field after the game.[8] No one knows for certain when or how the tradition started.[9] The Boston Public Library has in its collection a photograph of fans tearing down a goal post in 1940.[10]

Tearing down the goal posts can be dangerous, however, as people can be injured or killed by a falling goal post. Persons who sit or hang on the goal posts while they are being pulled down can be injured if they fall off or if they land hard on the ground when the goal posts collapse. Camera equipment from a game broadcaster attached to the goalposts results in another injury possibility. These dangers can create legal implications for the schools, the localities, and the venues where the games occur.[11]

In Massachusetts, there is a state statute that specifically prohibits the unauthorized tearing down of goal posts on a football field. Chapter 266, Section 104A of the Massachusetts General Laws provides: "Whoever willfully and without right destroys, injures or removes a goal post on a football field shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than two hundred dollars."[12] The Massachusetts state legislature enacted the statute in 1960 in response to a tragedy that occurred the previous year.[13] On 26 November 1959 (Thanksgiving Day that year), a 14-year-old girl in Foxborough, Jane Puffer, was hit on the head by a falling goal post. She had been part of a crowd that was on the field after the conclusion of a high school football game while a group of fans was tearing down a goal post. The steel goal post suddenly toppled to the ground, and Puffer was hit as she was apparently trying to push another girl out of its way. She died of her injuries the next day.[14][15][16] The state legislature enacted the statute the following year, and the law has remained unchanged ever since.[17]

In spite of the law, on 22 December 1985, fans of the New England Patriots tore down a goal post in Sullivan Stadium (also in Foxborough) to celebrate the team's victory there in the regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, which clinched a playoff berth (and eventual Super Bowl appearance) for the Patriots. Some fans carried the goal post outside of the stadium, where they caused it to come into contact with an overhead high-voltage power line. A man nearby, Jon Pallazola, was seriously injured. There was evidence that he was injured when he tried to protect himself from being hit by the falling goal post immediately after it became electrified. Pallazola subsequently sued a private security company that had been under contract to provide security at the stadium. He received a large jury verdict against the company, and then settled his claim against the company for $4.5 million. He also sued the Town of Foxborough but, in 1994, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that his claim against the town was barred by a state statute that gave municipalities immunity from claims that they failed to provide police protection or prevent crimes.[18]

On 19 November 1983, an 18-year-old Harvard University student was critically injured when she was hit on the back of her head by a goal post that Harvard fans tore down to celebrate their team's victory over archrival Yale University at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[19][20] The student, Margaret Cimino, subsequently filed a lawsuit in federal court against Yale, the City of New Haven, the City of West Haven, and a security company. She settled her claims against the City of West Haven and the security company. In 1986, a federal judge ruled that Cimino had sufficient evidence to take her claims against Yale and the City of New Haven to trial.[21] The parties then reached a settlement before the trial occurred.[22]

On 21 November 1998, a first-year student at Oregon State University was seriously injured when she was hit on the head by a falling goal post that fans tore down after the football team's 44-41 double overtime victory over the University of Oregon.[23] She suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in her brain, but she eventually recovered from her injuries.[24]

In November 2000, fans of the University of Texas at El Paso tore down a goal post after a victory. One fan claimed that he was injured when fans pulled the goal posts down while he was hanging on them. He sued the university and the University System of Texas. A Texas intermediate appellate court ruled in 2005 that the lawsuit was barred by governmental immunity.[25]

On 20 October 2001, a 21-year-old Ball State University student was rendered paraplegic when a goal post that fellow fans tore down to celebrate a victory landed on his back.[26] The university had encouraged the fans to tear down the goal post, flashing a message on the scoreboard which said, "The goal post looks lonely." The student, Andrew Bourne, settled his subsequent claim against the university for $300,000, the maximum amount that he could recover from the school under Indiana state law. He also filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the goal post, contending that the goal post was "defective and unreasonably dangerous". In 2006, a federal appeals court ruled that the manufacturer was not liable because the danger posed by the goal post was "obvious".[27]

Now, in order to prevent injuries, there are collapsible goal posts that stadium staff can take down within seconds after the conclusion of a game to prevent fans from tearing them down.[28][29] There are also goal posts that are constructed in such a manner that they cannot be taken down by fans.[30]

On October 4, 2014, Ole Miss fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts after knocking off #1 Alabama 23–17.

On 2 November 2015, students at the University of Kansas illegally broke into Memorial Stadium and tore down the goalpost at the south end of the field following the Kansas City Royals' World Series clinching victory vs. the New York Mets at Citi Field.[31] The goalposts at the stadium were also torn down after victories by the Jayhawks, vs. Nebraska in 2005 and 2007, West Virginia in 2013, Iowa State in 2014, Texas in 2016, Oklahoma State in 2022, Oklahoma in 2023, and in 1994 by fans of archrival Kansas State.

On October 15, 2022, Tennessee fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts after knocking off #3 Alabama 52–49 on a game-winning field goal and ending a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. One was later tossed into the Tennessee River.[32][33]

Association football

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River Plate supporters invade the field during the 1945 league title.
Sheffield Wednesday fans invade the pitch to celebrate promotion to the Championship on 5 May 2012.

Pitch invasions are not uncommon but not as frequent 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 Kenneth Wolstenholme's famous "Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all overit is now!" comment on the BBC's television coverage of the 1966 World Cup Final. "They" were fans who had encroached onto the pitch before the end of extra time.

Counterintuitively, despite the fact that the 1970s and 1980s were a time where fans were barricaded in the stands by the use of fences, pitch invasions were not uncommon; when the barricading form of crowd control was abandoned after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, pitch invasions became rarer.

Several reasons may account for the decline in pitch invasions. After the Hillsborough disaster, terraces were required to be converted into all-seater stands, from which it is somewhat more difficult for spectators to physically rush down in order to reach the pitchespecially in large numbers, and from higher rows of seats. Moreover, pitch invasions were criminalised in 1991 in the UK under the Football Offences Act.[34] There is also the concurrent and substantial increase in the cost of tickets, especially for seating in the lower rows, leading to these seats increasingly being occupied by wealthier fans who are much less inclined to risk legal, professional or other consequences which could arise from invading the pitch.

Pitch invasions still do occur, however, especially in the lower divisions, where terraces are still permitted, tickets are much less expensive, and there is less policing and security.

Famous pitch invasions include:

Australian rules football

A post-game kick-to-kick match is a rare sight. This follows an AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and Port Adelaide Power at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 16,000 fans were let onto the turf.
Spectators celebrating Buddy Franklin's 100th goal of the season in the final round of the regular AFL season.
Fans allowed onto the field at Heritage Bank Stadium after a AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Sydney Swans in 2023.
Fans flooding the Sydney Cricket Ground after Franklin's 1,000th AFL goal in 2022.

Post match kick-to-kick

Spectators on the playing field (i.e., rather than "pitch invasions") have long been a tradition of Australian rules football. 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 also able to do this during the half-time break. Since 2003, this was subject to stricter controls, and then finally banned altogether in games at Melbourne venues, in the elite Australian Football League. However, it is still common in suburban and state football leagues like the Victorian Football League as well as Australian Football League matches in New South Wales and Queensland.

Landmarks

It is also common for football fans to engage in mid-match field invasions when a player reaches a landmark achievement, typically a 100th goal in a season, a 1000th career goal, or in the case of Tony Lockett's 1300th career goal in 1999, breaking the all-time goal-kicking record. The AFL has not yet succeeded in preventing these mid-match invasions, but players are duly protected by bodyguards, teammates and stadium security while supporters flood onto the field.[53]

Pitch invasions also occur when significant final occasions occur. For example, pitch invasions occurred after the Fitzroy Football Club's final VFL/AFL game in Victoria,[54] as well as after the final AFL match was played at Waverley Park.[55]

Streakers

The outlawed practice of "streaking" (running naked onto the ground) occurred in some big matches, most famously the performance of Helen d'Amico in the 1982 VFL Grand Final.[56][57][58]

Hostile spectators

Although violent spectator playing field invasions both during and after matches were not uncommon in the early years of the VFL – and, "spectator behaviour" was one of the main reasons that the VFA team Port Melbourne was not invited to become one of the VFL's foundation clubs in 1897 – in more recent times there have been a few occasions of hostile pitch invasions; the most famous of these occurred in the 1967 Tasmanian State Premiership Final, when hundreds of Wynyard fans invaded the field and tore down the goalposts to prevent North Hobart full forward David Collins from kicking a goal after the final siren. The Tasmanian Football League declared the match a no result and withheld the 1967 State Premiership.

Another hostile pitch invasion occurred in an AFL night game between St Kilda and Essendon in 1996, when the floodlights at Waverley Park lost power during the third quarter; fans rioted in the darkness and, coincidentally, also took down the goalposts. After an AFL meeting, the final quarter of the game was played three days later.

Animals on the playing field

On 9 May 1914, in the third quarter of the match between the Clayton Football Club, a Melbourne suburban team, and the Clyde Football Club, an enraged bull invaded the playing field. The players and spectators scattered, some vaulting fences into the next-door market garden, with the majority taking shelter in the dressing shed. The bull's first charge at the dressing sheds shook the building. Its second charge smashed the door, but the shed's doorway was too narrow for it to actually enter the room.[59] Those inside maintained a barrage of boots, coats, and everything possible to scare the bull away. Eventually it was removed by a local farmer, who took it to a secure paddock.[60][61][62][63]

In a more humorous modern incident, a pig named "Plugger" was let loose on the ground in round 18, 1993.[64]

Baseball

Field intrusion at Blue Jays baseball game

In modern baseball, the field is typically rushed by one or a small number of attention seeking fans or pranksters, rather than a large number of people although more-generalized riots have occurred. Almost universally, intruders will be ejected from the ballpark and potentially banned for life from it, and may also face criminal charges depending on the nature of the offence.

In cases when a game is broadcast on television and a person or small group runs onto the field, the broadcaster will cut to another camera shot elsewhere in the stadium, to the commentators in the press box, or to a commercial break instead of focusing on the intruders; this is to avoid giving attention to their behavior, and to discourage imitators who might try the same thing (and as, occasionally, the person is also a streaker, to avoid showing nudity). Radio play-by-play announcers however will look at it in amusement and add 'color' to the broadcast, as the rusher is not visible in that medium; Kevin Harlan, who is the main play-by-play announcer for the NFL on Westwood One, has been lauded for his colorful descriptions of various field rushers.

Incidents

Morganna, the Kissing Bandit

Morganna, the Kissing Bandit became famous for rushing the field in baseball and other sports from the early 1970s through the 1980s. She rushed the field on numerous occasions and kissed many Major League Baseball players including Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, George Brett (twice), Steve Garvey, and Cal Ripken Jr.[72]

Basketball

College basketball has a similar phenomenon, known as "storming the court". This happens for the same reasons any field is rushed.

In high school and some colleges, walking on the court is the only way to exit from the stands. However, there are usually officials and security personnel and laid-out security stanchions that limit how far spectators can walk onto the court, at least while players and game officials are still leaving the court.

Incidents

The Indiana University men's basketball team defeated the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats 73–72 on 10 December 2011, after a three-point shot by Christian Watford with no time left on the clock. Fans at Indiana's Assembly Hall filled the court within seconds to create a series of iconic images. ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, who was covering the game for the network, said it was the "best game of the year"[73] and that "[t]he atmosphere there was unreal, as I felt the building shaking after Watford hit the shot."[74] Watford's shot won an ESPY Award for Best Play. Kentucky avenged their loss on their way to a National Championship later that season by defeating Indiana 102-90 during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.

Hundreds of students from Iowa State University stormed the court after the No. 4-ranked Cyclones' 83-82 come-from-behind victory over in-state rival Iowa 11 December 2015, at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. In the aftermath, Des Moines Register sports columnist Randy Peterson suffered a leg fracture.[75][76] The incident raised awareness of the dangers of court storming, but when asked about it in a post-game interview, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm stated, "That's part of college athletics. That's a great moment. Those college kids ... they've been camping out here (for tickets) for three days. There's only probably 10 schools that do that in the country. Give them their 15 or 20 minutes to do that. I thought it was pretty cool."[77]

Court storming in collegiate athletics came under further scrutiny following a pair of high-profile incidents that occurred during the 2023-24 basketball season. The first involved University of Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark colliding with a fan who rushed the court after Ohio State's win over the Hawkeyes in Columbus, Ohio. Several weeks later, Kyle Filipowski of the Duke Blue Devils had to be carried off the court after appearing to suffer an injury from coming into contact with a fan at Wake Forest University. In the wake of the Filipowski incident, several coaches including Duke's Jon Scheyer called for the practice to be abolished entirely.[78] Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas indicated that fans who engage in such conduct should face criminal penalties. “There's no accountability for this," he argued. "The fans feel like it's an entitlement. And the universities like it. And the truth is, we like it.”[79]

The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in the Philippines had a court storming incident. Prior to the start of the New Zealand vs United States game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on 26 August 2023, a ticket-paying fan wearing a full New Zealand jersey stormed the court. He was stopped after the New Zealand bench informed the organizers that the fan was not part of their team.[80]

High schools

Although not as well publicized as college incidents, fans storming the court after a big win is not uncommon at the high school level. The injuries suffered by several people following the Iowa State University men's basketball team's win over the University of Iowa in December 2015 prompted the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to issue a memorandum to athletic directors and coaches to remind fans that the organization and its sister organization, the Iowa High School Athletic Association, have policies prohibiting court storming after post-season games. "I have to wonder if the person injured was the star player, the coach, or one of the game officials if the attitude and need for 'storming the court' might change?" wrote IGHSAU executive director Mike Dick.[81]

Cricket

See also: Sydney Riot of 1879

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.[82] Invading the pitch can now warrant a £1,000 fine and a lifetime ban from the ground. Post-match presentations are now held on the field or in a room within the venue restricted from public access and displayed on a video scoreboard if available.

In August 1975, vandals protesting the imprisonment of alleged armed robber George Davis invaded the pitch of the Headingley Cricket Ground before the final day of the Third Ashes Test between England and Australia, digging holes in the field and covering one end of the pitch in oil. This led to the first-ever declaration of a Test ground being unfit for play, resulting in the match being abandoned and declared a draw.[83][84] This was significant as it denied England a chance to tie the series and potentially retain the Ashes; Australia eventually took back the Ashes.

In 1982, a pitch invasion at the WACA led to Australian bowler Terry Alderman suffering a shoulder injury when attempting to apprehend one of the intruders.[85]

Two One Day International matches at the Bourda ground in Georgetown, Guyana have had their results disrupted by pitch invasions. In 1993, the crowd invaded on the last ball of a match as the West Indies ran a second run to tie the score against Pakistan; then, in 1999, the crowd invaded on the last ball of a match as Australia ran a third run to tie the score against the West Indies. In both cases, the fielding team had been a chance of effecting a run-out to prevent the tying run, had the crowd not invaded; but in both cases, match referee Raman Subba Row declared the match to be tied.[86]

Gaelic football and hurling

Cork supporters invade the field at Semple Stadium after a game, 2014

In Gaelic football and hurling, both national sports of Ireland, pitch invasions were acceptable and most widely seen at Provincial and All-Ireland Finals. However, there has only been one occurrence at Croke Park, after the 2010 Leinster Senior Football Championship Final, due to a crackdown since 2009 by the GAA, though they still occur in other stadia around the country.[87][88]

International rules football

International rules football, a hybrid of Aussie Rules and Gaelic football is not known for pitch invasions; however, a famous one occurred in the first test of the 2006 International Rules Series at Pearse Stadium, Galway after Ireland defeated Australia.[citation needed]

Rugby league

Fans allowed onto the pitch of Belmore Sports Ground following the completion of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs St George Illawarra Dragons match in 2022.

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 taken as "souvenirs".[citation needed]

This practice was discouraged when the publicly viewable game clock stopped with five minutes to play in order to ensure 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 tradition died out, and spectators rarely, if ever, take the field in the present day National Rugby League; fines of $7000 and lifetime bans exist for those who do so.[citation needed]

In 2007, a match between Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC at Craven Park also known as the 'Hull Derby', the match ended at a score off 30 – 20 in favour of Hull FC. After the final whistle Hull FC fans raided the pitch to congratulate their players. The same happened in 2015 after Hull beat Rovers 22-12 which secured them a play-off spot[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Examples

Arena sports

Most arena sports (like ice hockey, arena football, and indoor soccer) take precautions to separate the spectators from the players and to ensure one cannot cross into the other. This is not only for the protection of the players but also the spectators as it also helps prevent pucks, balls, and other objects from flying at speed into spectators, along with the players themselves, and causing injury. Often, in addition to sidewalls, Plexiglas panels are used as a safety measure. Ice hockey uses the panels around the ice, team benches, and penalty boxes to enforce separation under the rules, and after the death of a young spectator in Columbus, Ohio in 2002, tall netting above the Plexiglas to protect spectators in each shooting end from flying hockey pucks. Furthermore, the iced surface means stepping onto a hockey rink without skates is dangerous. A few attempts to intrude in arena games have usually ended with physical player intervention.

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