Police charge fan after invading the pitch and making his way towards referee

A fan has been charged by police after invading the pitch and making a beeline for the referee during Rochdale's League One match with Oldham on Tuesday night.

The supporter ran on to the pitch at the Crown Oil Arena and headed straight for referee Peter Bankes moments after he had awarded Dale a penalty in their goalless stalemate with fellow strugglers Oldham.

Bankes avoided the pitch invader, who slipped and was restrained by Latics defender Anthony Gerrard.

Greater Manchester Police said they have charged a 27-year-old man with pitch encroachment, possession of a class A drug and a section 4 public order offence - using threatening/abusive/insulting words/behaviour with intent to cause fear of/provoke unlawful violence.

He is due to appear at Manchester Magistrates Court on May 9.

On the incident, Latics boss Richie Wellens told the Oldham Chronicle: "I saw the end of it. I saw someone slip into Gerrard.

"If he's a fan running on the pitch he's picking on the wrong lad in Gerrard because I've seen him box.

"For any fan to come onto the pitch is not right. There are loads of fans here who were brilliant and behaved."

Six days earlier English referee Michael Oliver had sent Gianluigi Buffon off in a Champions League tie after the Juventus goalkeeper confronted the official following his decision to hand Real Madrid a crucial late penalty.

Ex-referee Graham Poll believes the two incidents epitomise the current attitude towards officials.

Writing for The Daily Mail, Poll said: "This shameful incident at Rochdale took place less than a week after Gianluigi Buffon's abuse of Michael Oliver. It is unlikely that this was a coincidence.

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"If respect is not shown to referees at the highest level, then this kind of behaviour can trickle down to the lower leagues.

"While Buffon is not solely to blame, his actions were symptomatic of how officials are now being treated.

"This clash between Rochdale and Oldham was an intense local derby with a heavy police presence. When Rochdale were awarded a penalty, a fan made a beeline for referee Peter Bankes.

"Bankes, a former Premier League linesman, thankfully managed to dodge the attack but he may be affected psychologically by what happened."

- PA

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