Leyton Orient v Colchester: 'No regret' over suspending game, say EFL

Leyton Orient fans
Leyton Orient fans got onto the pitch at the Matchroom Stadium to protest against owner Francesco Becchetti

The English Football League have said there is "no regret" over the "difficult decision" to suspend Leyton Orient's home League Two defeat by Colchester United for two hours.

Orient supporters protested against owner Francesco Becchetti on the pitch and fans were later told the match on 29 April had been abandoned.

It was restarted and concluded later.

The EFL said it recognises "the right to protest" but added it cannot support it if it affected a sporting outcome.

The U's beat relegated Orient 3-1 and, while Orient's fate has been sealed, the victory kept Colchester still in with a chance of reaching the fourth-tier play-offs.

Following the lengthy delay at the Matchroom Stadium, the players returned to the pitch to finish the final eight minutes of the match behind closed doors.

'Peaceful pitch invasion'

Leyton Orient
Many Leyton Orient fans sat on the pitch, while the players had to leave the field

An EFL statement read: "We would like to reiterate that the EFL recognises that supporters of clubs have the right to protest if they are unhappy and very much understand the frustration of Leyton Orient fans in particular at this difficult time.

"As we have stated, unless our rules are broken, our powers to intervene are limited once owners ("Responsible Persons") are in position.

"Our rules reflect our position as a competition organiser and are derived to protect our competitions, the format of which thrives on promotion and relegation.

"It is therefore imperative that all clubs play 46 games of 90 minutes to complete a full season and any variation from this brings the legitimacy of the competition into question.

"While acknowledging the right of fans to protest, we cannot support this if those actions 'cross the white line' and affect the sporting outcome.

"The pitch invasion at the Matchroom Stadium was peaceful in its nature but led to the referee needing to take the players off the field. We cannot sit back and allow this to happen and have the credibility of our competition, which is envied the world over, questioned."

'A difficult week for the EFL'

As well as the events at Orient on Saturday, the EFL have written to Championship side Huddersfield to "request their observations regarding team selection" for the 2-0 defeat by Birmingham City on the same day.

The Terriers are already guaranteed a play-off spot and made 10 changes for the trip to Blues, who are not yet safe from relegation to League One.

"It is very much a subjective matter to determine what constitutes a 'full strength' side, however the disappointment of both (Birmingham's fellow strugglers) Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest is understandable," said an EFL statement.

"Huddersfield have been asked for their observations and reasons for taking the approach that they did.

"This type of approach is another challenge to the integrity of the competition, albeit a different one to the actions of supporters. We have reminded all clubs this week as to their obligations in this area.

"It has been a difficult week for the EFL and we hope that the final weekend of matches in the Championship and League Two pass without further incident that could damage the reputation of our clubs, their fans or our competition."

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