City pitch invader says sorry

Joe Hart
Joe Hart stopped Man City fan Matthew Stott as he tried to confront Rio Ferdinand. Photo: PA

The Manchester City fan who ran on to the pitch and tried to confront Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand in yesterday's derby match has apologised, his solicitors said today.

Matthew Stott, 21, had to be restrained by City keeper Joe Hart and was arrested following Robin van Persie's late winner at the Etihad Stadium.

He was subsequently charged with pitch encroachment.

Speaking through his solicitors Stephen Lickrish and Associates he confessed his guilt - and said sorry to the Manchester United defender.

In a statement, the landscape gardener, from Knutsford, said: "I would like to apologise to all those affected by my actions yesterday, particularly Mr Ferdinand and the other players.

"I am extremely ashamed of my actions. I have let myself down, my family down, my fellow fans down and Manchester City Football Club.

"I intend to write personally to Mr Ferdinand to express my extreme regret and apologies and also apologise to Manchester United and their fans.

"I would like to thank Joe Hart for his actions when I came on the pitch.

"I have been a fan of Manchester City Football Club all my life and I have been a season ticket holder for three years and I attend the games with my father. I have had the same seat in the section next to the away fans for those three years."

Rebecca Caulfield, solicitor at Stephen Lickrish & Associates, is representing Stott.

She said: "Mr Stott is a hard-working man who has held a full-time job as a landscape gardener for four years and lives with his partner of five years.

"He has never been to court before and has never been in trouble with any of the stewards at Manchester City Football Club before, or at any other ground.

"He is extremely remorseful and is mortified by his behaviour, which is completely out of character.

"This was a momentary mistake by Mr Stott, which has led to him being charged, brought shame on his family, and will bring sanctions on the club that Mr Stott has supported all his life."

She added: "Mr Stott will accept the consequences of his actions.

"He would like to make clear that he is not the stereotypical drunken football fan but a fan that attends games with his father.

"He is embarrassed and ashamed of his temporary moment of madness that has brought wider consequences on the club he supports and his fellow fans."

Police charged a total of nine people, including for a racially aggravated public order offence, pitch encroachment, breach of football banning orders and other public offences - including being drunk and disorderly.

In addition one man was arrested but released without charge for ticket touting, a woman was cautioned for being drunk and disorderly, a 45-year-old male was summonsed over a racially aggravated public order offence while another man remains in police custody on suspicion of possessing a class A drug.

A police spokesman said they were continuing to work with City to identify the offender who threw a coin at Ferdinand, cutting the defender above his left eye as he celebrated the winning goal.

"To have just 13 arrests for a crowd of this size and a match of this proportion is a testament to the policing operation we put in place," said Chief Inspector Steve Howard.

"Despite fierce rivalry and high tension there was no major disorder. However, we will continue to investigate the coin-throwing incident and are determined to work with the club to bring the perpetrator to justice."

Football Association chairman David Bernstein described yesterday's incidents as "deplorable" and promised tough action to try to stamp out the chances of further incidents occurring.

"To see Rio Ferdinand with blood on his face is absolutely terrible," he told Sky Sports News.

"I think it's disturbing that we're seeing a recurrence of these types of incidents.

"We've had racial abuse issues, the odd pitch incursion, things being thrown at players - it's very unacceptable and has to be dealt with severely...in the strongest way we can.

"To my mind it's for the FA, the whole game of football and the authorities to work together to deal with this most severe matter.

"I believe that if necessary these people need to go to the court and be banned for life, if they're found out.

"It's important that matters are brought to a head and people understand that there is no room for this in football at all, and we'll do everything we can within the FA.

"I know the rest of football feels the same, it's a blot on the game."

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Gordon Taylor, believes yesterday's events highlighted how important it was not to become complacent.

"I think it's a real wake-up call for the football authorities, the safety officers at grounds working with the police and the clubs to try to do all we can to prevent it happening, to make sure football is there to be involved by all the community," he said.

"Sometimes its almost impossible to stop these things happening but we have to learn from it, deal with the culprits and try to move forward and make it safer for everybody.

"We don't want it to be like the airports where you have to be searched before you go into a ground but, on the other hand, we do have CCTV, we have safety officers, the police, the clubs - everybody has got to be vigilant, including the supporters themselves.

"You don't want to ban anyone from football but if they are going to behave like that then they are going to spoil it for everybody."

Taylor's suggestion of netting to provide players with some protection from items thrown from the crowd was dismissed as a "knee-jerk reaction" by Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation.

"Netting is not something we feel is necessary to have," he told Press Association Sport.

"No one condones the throwing of missiles, but arrests last season were 24 per cent down on previous seasons and not many social phenomenon alter that much.

"Before we start making knee-jerk reactions to particular incidents we ought to bear that in mind.

"Let's not get things out of proportion. The arrest figures are dramatically down and overall it is looking very positive."