Outcry at calls for netting to protect players

FOOTBALL supporters’ chiefs last night rejected calls for netting to be erected at stadia to prevent repeats of the Rio Ferdinand coin incident that marred Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand suffered a gash above the eye when a missile hit him as he celebrated the visitors’ late winner at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

It prompted players’ union boss Gordon Taylor to advocate netting to protect players – a measure used in some European leagues including Germany’s Bundesliga.

But Football Supporters’ Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke responded by calling the demand a “knee-jerk reaction”.

“Netting is not something we feel is necessary to have,” he added. “No one condones the throwing of missiles, but arrests last season were 24 per cent down on previous seasons.”

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Taylor had said: “We should give some consideration to looking at the vulnerable areas, behind the goals and round the corner flags. Players should not be in the position of getting hurt by missiles being thrown.”

Police have charged nine people in relation to Sunday’s match, including two for invading the pitch and one for a racially aggravated public order offence. One fan ran on to the field to confront Ferdinand, and City said those found guilty would have their season tickets revoked.

Football Association chairman David Bernstein called for life bans, labelling signs of hooliganism returning “disturbing”. He added: “It’s very unacceptable and they have to be dealt with severely.”