Carlisle United have been hit with a £5,000 fine over the pitch invasion at the Bradford City play-off game at Brunton Park.

The post-match scenes after a game which saw the Blues and their fans celebrating progress to Wembley have seen the club punished.

United admitted the charge and have been warned, as well as fined £5,000, of which £2,000 is suspended.

Carlisle said they submitted "significant" mitigation for the events of May 20 in the League Two play-off semi-final second leg.

But previous fan behaviour incidents counted against United when an independent regulatory commission decided on United's punishment.

A pitch invasion followed the final whistle as Carlisle defeated Bradford on aggregate to reach the League Two play-off final, in front of 15,401 supporters.

This led to a charge of crowd control misconduct, with United admitting they "failed to ensure their spectators and/or supporters (and anyone purporting to be supporters or followers) conduct themselves in an orderly fashion and don’t commit any form of pitch incursion."

The suspended £2,000 part of their fine will be payable if the club is found in further breach of Football Association rule E21 on or before November 21 next year.

"The Commission noted a detailed “Action Plan” is in place already for CUFC until the end of the 2023/24 season," added an FA statement. "No amendments are made to the terms of that Action Plan. CUFC is formally warned as to future conduct."

United said the fact they have already been punished for a previous crowd incident involving racist chanting in the Bradford league game on Boxing Day 2022 meant their punishment was not as lenient as it might have been.

They were fined £7,500 over that incident.

On the play-off pitch invasion fine, Blues chief executive Nigel Clibbens said in a statement: "We admitted the charge and provided significant mitigation for the events that took place.

"Having considered the case, the Commission concluded that our culpability fell within the fifth category (lowest category of breach), namely a situation where a club has “marginally failed”.

"The Commission noted the various mitigating factors we put forward but also the aggravating factor of a breached FA Rule E21.4 [discriminatory racist chanting by its spectators] committed in the match at Brunton Park against Bradford City on 26 December 2022.

News and Star: Scenes from the pitch invasion at Brunton ParkScenes from the pitch invasion at Brunton Park (Image: Ben Holmes)

"We have already implemented changes to arrangements since the start of the season and we will now also look closely and review the findings of the Commission and make any further necessary changes for the future.

"We must continue to reiterate to fans, the pitch is for the players and officials. Pyros and missiles have no place at Brunton Park, at any time."

The independent regulatory commission was made up of Abdul S Iqbal KC, Peter Fletcher and Phil Rainford.

Written reasons

Written reasons for the judgement include the commission's findings that, after "thousands" of fans came onto the pitch, there are "no or very few security or safety staff" visible on the footage of the events.

The FA, meanwhile, accepted that United had given "strong messaging" to fans ahead of the game and that the fixture was subject to "enhanced planning" with the police, with the risk of a pitch invasion in mind.

They also, though, found cause to criticise aspects of United's actions around the incident.

Anthony Conniford, a safety and security advisor instructed by the FA to review the steps taken by the Blues, found "a number of failings".

He said United's risk assessment and briefing document for the game "was not detailed enough in respect of potential pitch incursions".

He also said no minutes of meetings or briefings with the police have been provided.

Mr Conniford also said that "a more robust attempt" could have been made to stop or "proactively dissuade" fans from invading the pitch.

He noted that the away section was "well protected" from pitch invasions.

But he also added that "at full-time, around the tunnel area, a protected sterile area should have been in place for players and staff."

"CUFC plainly took significant steps to mitigate the risks of a pitch incursion but fell short in defence of the charge under the “due diligence test”," the written reasons add.

"Pitch incursions of this nature, even if good natured, still present a significant risk to those on the field of play."

The FA did not ask the commission to impose a further Action Plan on United "given the behaviour of the spectators did not involve discriminatory language or conduct".

Carlisle, in their evidence, argued that "proportionate and reasonable mitigations" were put in place when planning for the game.

United also, the report says, "supported the police and appealed to fans to identify and prosecute individuals involved in disorder during the incidents.

"Two fans were prosecuted and sanctioned with a 3-year Football Banning Order and 3-year club bans.

"Since the match, CUFC have learned from the incidents and made changes to improve routine matchday planning, risk assessment and match incident management.

"CUFC has experienced no repeat pitch incursion and no single individual has entered the field of play in the 2023/24 season thus far at home games attended by almost 60,000 fans, nor have any CUFC fans at away games engaged in such behaviour."

The commission added that it was "acutely mindful" that it was a play-off semi-final, but they said it was "surprising" that it was only deemed a "medium risk" fixture.

United won the Bradford game 3-1 after extra-time to progress 3-2 on aggregate to the final, where they won promotion by defeating Stockport County on penalties.

Carlisle's punishment is not as severe as some other clubs have faced over pitch invasions. Port Vale were fined £15,000 for the scenes after their play-off semi-final victory against Swindon Town in 2022.

The FA statement and full written reasons for United's pitch invasion punishment can be found HERE