ALBION supporters are being warned that pitch incursion is a criminal offence ahead of the Seagulls’ match against West Ham.

Following a spate of high-profile pitch invasions, fans have been urged to stay in the stands at the end of the game and not ruin their season with a criminal record and a lengthy club ban.

Albion manager Graham Potter, who will lead his players on a lap of appreciation shortly after the final whistle this afternoon, described incidents at matches across the country earlier this week as “shocking”.

He said: “We want to show our appreciation to the fans at the end of an amazing season, so we would ask all fans to stay in the stands and give us that opportunity to say thanks.”

The Argus: Albion manager Graham Potter: credit - Richard ParkesAlbion manager Graham Potter: credit - Richard Parkes

Those thinking of staging a pitch invasion have also been warned that Sussex Police have successfully prosecuted, or is in the process of prosecuting, all individuals who’ve come onto the pitch at the Amex Stadium this season - with the assistance of the club.

End-of-season matches in the Premier League have been blighted by pitch invasions, with some fans confronting and even assaulting players and other club staff.

A Nottingham Forest fan headbutted Sheffield United player Billy Sharp earlier this week and has been jailed for 24 weeks.

Other incidents also took place following matches at Everton, Northampton and Port Vale and are the subject of police investigations.

The Argus: Huddersfield Town fans stormed the pitch in celebration after a match earlier this weekHuddersfield Town fans stormed the pitch in celebration after a match earlier this week

The recent invasions come after data from the UK Football Policing Unit revealed there had been a 36 per cent increase in reported incidents of disorder in the first half of the current campaign, compared to the same period of the 2019-20 season.

However, chief constable Mark Roberts - the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football policing lead, said a return to perimeter fencing is not the answer to deterring such action.

“That will be, frankly, an absolute failure of us all if we ever went back to a situation where there were fences around the ground,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It’s not safe, we don’t want it and we’d like to think we can manage it without that.”

Albion faces off against West Ham at the Amex Stadium at 4pm tomorrow, with the Seagulls on the brink of securing their highest-ever finishing position in the Premier League.