MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Everton’s board of directors were instructed not to attend Saturday’s home match against Southampton because of a “real and credible threat to their safety and security,” the Premier League team said.
The decision was made ahead of reports of a possible protest at Goodison Park in the wake of Everton’s poor form this season.
“The board members received the instruction following malicious and unacceptably threatening correspondence received by the club and increasing incidents of anti-social behavior — including targeted physical aggression — at recent home matches,” the club said in a statement.
Everton is third from the foot of the table and three points ahead of last-place Southampton going into Saturday’s game.
Chairman Bill Kenwright, CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale, chief finance and strategy officer Grant Ingles and non-executive director Graeme Sharp were advised not to attend the match, the club said.
Everton’s statement included a quote from a security adviser: “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.”
Everton has failed to win any of its last eight games in all competitions and lost 4-1 at home to Brighton in its last home match.
“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,” the club said.
By JAMES ROBSON AP Soccer Writer
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson