London (AFP) – Leeds United defended the club’s decision for the players to parade the Championship trophy in an open-top bus at Elland Road after thousands of fans ignored pleas not to gather at the stadium.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side had already sealed promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years as champions prior to Wednesday’s 4-0 home win against Charlton.
Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani and managing director Angus Kinnear had appealed before the game for Leeds fans to help in the fight against coronavirus by staying at home.
But thousands of supporters gathered outside Elland Road for the second time in a week after also doing so when promotion was sealed on Friday.
Players boarded the bus to join in the celebrations after their pitchside trophy presentation had concluded.
“Following consultation with the SAG (Safety Advisory Group) and (Leeds City) Council, Leeds United arranged for a bus to be parked outside the East Stand reception as a contingency to assist dispersal should a crowd congregate at Elland Road, despite a month-long campaign from the club and supporter groups to encourage supporters to stay at home,” said a club spokesman.
“The safety group believed that a brief appearance from the players with the Championship trophy would help to signal an end to proceedings, encouraging fans to head home safely.
“In challenging circumstances fan safety has always been our priority.”
Merseyside police also had to issue a dispersal zone around Liverpool’s Anfield stadium on Wednesday night after large numbers of supporters congregated outside the Kop end.
After a 5-3 victory over Chelsea, Liverpool lifted the Premier League trophy for the first time on the Kop after sealing a first top-flight title for 30 years last month.
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