The police and the Football Association have both launched investigations after Patrick Vieira appeared to lash out at a fan during the latest pitch invasion to shame the game.
The invasion itself was also being probed, with Everton facing punishment from the FA over the scenes that marred their dramatic comeback against Vieira’s Crystal Palace, and saw them secure their Premier League survival.
Merseyside Police said in a statement: "Merseyside Police is investigating an altercation on the pitch at Goodison Park following the Everton v Crystal Palace match on Thursday.
"We are working with Everton FC to gather all available CCTV footage and are speaking to witnesses. No formal complaint has been received and enquiries into the incident are ongoing."
As home supporters flooded onto the pitch to celebrate their team securing Premier League safety, footage showed Vieira goaded by a fan who shouted: "Suck on that you muppet! F--- off!" Former player Vieira was then seen first taking a swipe at the individual and then kicking him before being pulled away by others.
“I’ve got nothing to say on that,” said Vieira, when asked about the incident, which can be viewed below.
Patrick Vieira has been filmed in an altercation with an Everton fan on the pitch at Goodison Park during tonight’s pitch invasion. pic.twitter.com/MOliWvsSHJ
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 19, 2022
The flashpoint came two days after Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was headbutted by a pitch invader - who was subsequently jailed for 24 weeks - after Nottingham Forest’s Championship play-off win, while players were also attacked verbally and physically by fans following Swindon's League Two play-off defeat to Port Vale on Thursday.
Speaking after the Everton match about the Vieira incident and the wider issue of fans invading the pitch, Sky Sports pundit Dion Dublin said: "Having fans on the pitch is not the way forward, we have to stop letting fans on the pitch. You can't have players in fear of their lives if players are on the pitch. For any players or member of staff on the pitch, it's a scary place to be."
Everton manager Frank Lampard, however, believes pitch invasions should be allowed if there is no trouble.
“It was a special moment for the fans. Let them have their moment,” he said. “Are we going to handcuff them to their seat? As long as they behave, it is not a problem. I felt for Patrick as I didn’t get to see him. It was not easy, walking across 80 yards of fans.”
Police investigation launched after Swindon Town player reportedly assaulted following another pitch invasion at Port Vale
By Jeremy Wilson
Police have launched an investigation into the reported assault of a Swindon Town player following a pitch invasion after Port Vale won their League Two play-off semi-final on penalties.
Swindon fans have also reported being attacked by missiles, including a flare, with Port Vale releasing a statement on Friday to say that they would take the “strongest possible action” in banning any fan who is found guilty of criminal activity.
Ben Garner, the Swindon manager, said that his players were "physically and verbally abused" after the match. “Players have been hit, players have been kicked, players have been spat at, players have been verbally abused," he said.
“Fans think they can come on and they can have a free hit and a free pop and no one player can react to it. If you did that on the street you'd end up in a tear up.”
Three Swindon players also took to social media to describe their experiences. Striker Harry McKirdy said that he could take the “stick and the songs” but that “bottles, coins, lighters thrown at me and running on and hitting and kicking me and my team-mates” was “too far.”
Right-back Mandela Egbo posted a selfie with a cut on his nose. "How you scummy fans get two free shots and only manage a scratch? And I’m supposed to keep my cool – if I react I’m the bad guy right?” he said.
How you scummy fans get two free shots and only manage a scratch? & I’m supposed to keep my cool - if I react I’m the bad guy right? pic.twitter.com/yEr8Pxs3sA
— Mandela Egbo (@mandela_e) May 19, 2022
Defender Jake O'Brien said that Port Vale fans “should be disgusted with yourselves”.
Staffordshire Police said that a “thorough investigation” had begun and that they were working with “both football clubs to identify those responsible”.
Swindon Town fans have also said that bottles, coins and even a flare was thrown into their section of the ground.
Port Vale are promising action. “There is no place and no need for violence at football matches and the individuals involved are not welcome,” said co-owner Carol Shanahan. “As an industry we have to, and will, stand firm and together with the police.”