Everton’s board of directors have been instructed not to attend today’s Premier League fixture against Southampton because of a “real and credible threat to their safety and security".
Chairman Bill Kenwright, CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Chief Finance & Strategy Officer Grant Ingles and Non-Executive Director Graeme Sharp have reluctantly accepted the outcome of the safety assessment carried out by security advisors.
The board members say they received the instruction following "malicious and unacceptably threatening correspondence" received by the club and increasing incidents of anti-social behaviour – including targeted physical aggression - at recent home matches.
A security & safety advisor said: “Following a thorough risk assessment, and in response to tangible threats received by the club and intelligence we have gathered, the club’s board members have been told they must not attend today’s fixture.”
A club spokesperson added: “This is an unprecedented decision for Everton Football Club – never before has our entire board of directors been ordered not to attend a match on safety grounds. It is a profoundly sad day for Everton and Evertonians.”
Everton's defeat by Brighton left them in the relegation zone with just three wins from their 18 matches so far this season - with the rock-bottom Saints one of only two teams below them in the table.
But owner Farhad Moshiri said he would stand by under-fire boss Frank Lampard in an open letter this week, despite admitting his previous five sackings since his arrival at the club were driven by adverse fan reaction.
"Some of the decisions we have taken are together with the fans', he said.
"Older (former) managers who have left have been driven by the fans, not by me initially."
Having given his backing to Frank Lampard in an open letter published on Wednesday Moshiri reaffirmed that support, adding: "You have to stay with the manager to get the systems going, the players he buys. I have a lot of faith in Frank to get it right."
Fans have become increasingly frustrated by a perceived lack of communication from Moshiri, and announced they were planning a sit-down protest at the conclusion of Saturday's match.
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