Sheffield United footballers Rhian Brewster and Oli McBurnie have been charged with assault after a police investigation into incidents during the club’s Championship play-off semi-final loss to Nottingham Forest.
In a statement on its website, Sheffield United FC said it was ‘disappointed’ that the two players face criminal action following an inquiry by Nottinghamshire Police.
Brewster, 22, and McBurnie, 26, are both set to appear at magistrates’ court next month, where they will each face a charge of common assault. They ‘strenuously deny’ the allegations, having attended voluntary interviews with police, Sheffield United said.
The allegations relate to the club’s Sky Bet Championship match against Forest at the City Ground in Nottingham on May 17, when victorious Forest fans invaded the pitch and attacked Blades’ skipper Billy Sharp after Blades lost to the home team 3-2 on penalties.
Sharp’s attacker, Robert Biggs, was later charged, convicted and jailed for 24 weeks last month.
Oliver McBurnie reacts after a missed chance during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield United and Hull City at Bramall Lane on February 15, 2022
Sheffield United backed Rhian Brewster, centre, at Bramall Lane on September 21, 2021
Nottinghamshire Police said: ‘Two men have been informed that summonses have been issued following an incident at the end of a football match between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United.’
The force said the allegations were ‘in relation to disorder at the conclusion of a game at the City Ground’.
The Yorkshire club added that it was working with others to address concerns about pitch invasions, following a number of similar incidents at other grounds, including at Everton, where Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was involved in a clash with a fan.
It said: ‘Sheffield United Football Club is disappointed to learn that Rhian Brewster and Oli McBurnie have been charged following the incidents that took place at the EFL Championship play-off semi-final second leg against Nottingham Forest last month.
‘Both players voluntarily engaged in interviews with Nottinghamshire Police in the aftermath of the fixture which saw their team-mate, Billy Sharp, the victim of assault in the chaos which followed the final whistle.
Nottingham Forest fans invaded the pitch at City Ground on May 17, 2022
‘Brewster and McBurnie strenuously deny the charges brought against them and football manager Paul Heckingbottom, who wrote letters to the League Managers’ Association, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the EFL and FA following a number of pitch invasions last month, including one involving Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira, is continuing discussions with key stakeholders in a bid to better protect players and staff in their place of work.’
Brewster, of Wilmslow in Cheshire, and McBurnie, of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, will appear at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on July 28. United declined to comment further.
Speaking to local media at the club’s training complex today after returning for pre-season, manager Paul Heckingbottom said: ‘As a club and personally, really disappointed. Obviously, we knew the questioning was ongoing.
‘We all saw the situation. I have written to the EFL and LMA about protecting their members.
‘This is not me speaking about Nottingham Forest or Nottinghamshire Police, this is me talking about football in general, there were incidents all over the place and we can’t let that happen again.
‘I have written about that protection to your members. Also to the EFL and the FA as governing bodies. I think that’s important.
‘If anyone sees any incidents like that again next season someone should be losing their job, definitely. It’s foolish and unsafe.
‘I am looking at the man hours, the expense all this ongoing, why not put police round the pitch? It’s cheaper, we would not have had anyone attacked, would not have someone in prison and would not have two professional athletes having to go through it again.’