Government and PFA want review of pitch perimeter safety after serious injury

Government and PFA want review of pitch perimeter safety after serious injury

The Government and the Professional Footballers’ Association have called for a review of pitch perimeter safety after a non-league player suffered a serious injury last season.

A letter has been sent by Sports Minister Stuart Andrew and PFA chief executive Maheta Molango to the chief executives of the Premier League, the EFL, the National League and the Football Association in a bid to avoid a repeat of what happened to Alex Fletcher.

The 24-year-old required emergency brain surgery after he suffered a fractured skull colliding with an advertising board reinforced with concrete blocks in a match for Bath last November.

The letter, seen by the PA news agency, calls on leagues and the FA to be more proactive in setting guidance and expectations for clubs in this area, and also to involve players in risk-assessing the pitch perimeter, given they have the best idea of what the dangers are.

It asks the authorities to review whether lessons can be learned from the serious player collisions which have taken place and make improvements where necessary to ensure playing areas are as safe as possible.

It is believed to be the first letter of its kind between the Government and the union, and the hope is that the timing of the letter – between seasons when stadium upgrades tend to take place – could be advantageous.

PFA director of external affairs Ben Wright said: “After the incident where Alex Fletcher was so badly injured, we met with the Minister to highlight what we felt was a lack of clarity over the regulations that are in place to ensure player safety.

“Although safety is ultimately the responsibility of the stadium owner, the PFA’s view is that the direction given to clubs in this area is not as strong as it could be.

“We’re pleased that the Minister wants to see the leagues and the FA take a bigger role in ensuring player safety.

“They are able to give guidance, share best practice and set an expectation that clubs will be proactive in their approach.

“As part of that, we want clubs to work with players to identify potential risk factors that those who aren’t on the pitch every week might not necessarily see.

“It’s the time of the year where clubs take the opportunity to do work on stadiums ahead of the new season, so it’s a good opportunity for them to think about this.

“Collectively, football should do everything it can to make sure incidents like Alex Fletcher’s don’t happen. This is a step in the right direction and we appreciate the Minister’s support.”