Everton’s board of directors will not attend Saturday’s Premier League fixture with fellow strugglers Southampton due to a “real and credible threat to their safety and security”.
The Toffees are mired in a relegation battle and those running the club have come in for significant criticism from disgruntled fans.
Members of the club’s hierarchy have now been advised by security professionals to not attend the visit of Southampton to Goodison Park in order to preserve their safety following “malicious and unacceptable threatening correspondence received by the club”.
The club also claim there have been “increasing incidents of anti-social behaviour – including targeted physical aggression – at recent home matches”.
An Everton statement, which quoted a security and safety advisor, read: “Following a thorough risk assessment, and in response to tangible threats received by the club and intelligence we have gathered, the club’s board members have been told they must not attend today’s fixture.”
A club spokesperson added: “This is an unprecedented decision for Everton Football Club – never before has our entire board of directors been ordered not to attend a match on safety grounds.
“It is a profoundly sad day for Everton and Evertonians.”
A run of one win from their last seven Premier League matches has left Everton in the bottom three heading into Saturday’s game.
Sections of the Everton fanbase are planning a coach welcome before kick-off, but are also set for a ‘sit-in’ as part of a protest against how the club has been run.