Pitch-invading brothers may still face Sunderland match ban
Two brothers who escaped court-imposed football bans after invading the Stadium of Light pitch following Sunderland's crucial end-of-season victory over Everton face an anxious wait to see if they will face any further sanctions.
Alan Appleby, 25, and his 24-year-old brother Ben, were spared football banning orders by Sunderland magistrates earlier this week after both admitted going on to the playing area after the 3-0 win on May 11.
The life-long Black Cats supporters had pleaded not to be excluded from games and were ecstatic when they learned they could continue to follow their beloved team.
A Sunderland AFC spokesman declined to comment but the Echo understands that the club is considering whether they should take action against the pair and that a decision will be made in due course.
At Tuesday’s hearing, magistrates told the Applebys they had been encouraged to break the law by the club’s footballers.
The court heard they were invited on to the pitch by players to celebrate securing another season in the Premiership, and ensuring rivals Newcastle United’s relegation.
The brothers, of Scoresby Close, Southwick, were given conditional discharges for two years and 18 months respectively and were told to pay prosecution costs.
After leaving court, Ben Appleby immediately ordered his 2016/17 season card.
Northumbria Police have said it is up to Sunderland AFC to take its own action.
Operations Commander, Chief Superintendent Steve Neill, said: “The number of arrests at these matches have fallen dramatically but there will always be a small minority of supporters who cross the line.
“We have a proven track record of putting these people before the courts, where they could be handed a football banning order.
“If the courts decide not to issue a banning order, then the football clubs could still refuse them entry to matches.
“Our priority will always be the safety of the public and we will continue to work with both our region’s football clubs to keep supporters safe.”
Ben Appleby said he would be “absolutely devastated” at any ban.
He said: “I don’t want that to happen, after all that’s happened, that would be the worst. I would be absolutely devastated.
“’ve got two sons and it would be a massive kick in the teeth for me, if I wouldn’t be able to take my kids. I’ve been growing up with football.
“I’m sure someone should be able to look at the decision of the magistrates.
“I would hope they wouldn’t think what we did was that bad, but I will make sure it never happens again.
“No harm was caused, no violence. It was just pure love and passion for the players.”