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Port Vale fan storms pitch, chases referee after late penalty in loss to Portsmouth

BURSLEM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Ground stewards remove a fan who invaded the field to confront referee Craig Hicks during the Sky Bet League One match between Port Vale and Portsmouth at Vale Park on January 27, 2024 in Burslem, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Ground stewards restrain a fan who stormed the field to confront referee Craig Hicks during a League One match between Port Vale and Portsmouth at Vale Park. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) (Gareth Copley via Getty Images)

A League One match between Port Vale and Portsmouth was interrupted Saturday when a fan sprinted onto the pitch to confront referee Craig Hicks.

The fan was seemingly reacting after Hicks awarded a late penalty to Portsmouth, which Colby Bishop converted for the 1-0 road win in Burslem, England. The individual took to the field as soon as Bishop scored in the 88th minute.

Hicks ran away from the fan, leading him toward the tunnel at Port Vale's Vale Park Stadium. The individual's pursuit of the official was interrupted when coaches and staff restrained him near the benches.

Port Vale is now just one spot above the relegation zone in 20th, while Portsmouth still leads League One. Saturday's pitch invader probably won't get a chance to watch another Port Vale game in person, since entering the field of play as a spectator is punishable by law.

Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), an organization that manages referees in England, released a statement on the incident with The English Football League (EFL).

"We are appalled by the incident in today's League One fixture between Port Vale and Portsmouth which saw referee Craig Hicks chased off the field of play and condemn the mindless actions of the individual involved," it said. "We will work with the relevant authorities to ensure the matter and the individual is dealt with a zero tolerance approach."

The organizations went on to assert that officials should never feel unsafe on the job. But Saturday marked the second instance in 13 days of fans storming the pitch during a Port Vale match. Additionally, the incident occurred during pop star Robbie Williams' first match as president of the club.

Port Vale released a statement condemning the fan's actions:

"We will provide our full support to Craig and his team alongside Port Vale and the relevant authorities as they seek to bring this individual to justice," the club said.