By Aimee Lewis and Wayne Sterling, CNN
The board of directors for English Premier League club Everton were told to not attend Saturday’s home league game against Southampton because of a “real and credible threat to their safety and security,” the club said in a statement.
Everton said the directors had “reluctantly accepted” the advice to miss the match after the club had received “malicious and unacceptably threatening correspondence,” in addition to “targeted physical aggression” at recent home matches.
“This is an unprecedented decision,” a club spokesperson said in the statement.
“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.”
Everton’s board of directors includes chairman Bill Kenwright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, chief finance & strategy officer Grant Ingles and non-executive director Graeme Sharp.
“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 security and safety advisor said, according to the statement.
Everton is in the relegation zone having made a poor start to the season, losing 10 of 19 matches under manager Frank Lampard, the latest defeat coming at home against Southampton.
On Tuesday, Everton — winless in nine matches — suffered a humiliating 4-1 home defeat by Brighton, after which owner Farhad Moshiri said he still supported Lampard.
In responding to an open letter written by Everton Fans’ Forum, which spoke about concerns over the “direction of the club,” Moshiri said: “I have faith in the work being done not only by our manager, but our Director of Football and our board of directors.”
“That faith is based on my knowledge of the depth and quality of work being done both at Finch Farm [Everton’s training complex] and the Royal Liver Building [Everton’s administrative HQ) — and of the plan that is in place. I am confident that we have skilled, experienced and focused professionals at all levels of the club. We are all agreed that our current league position must and will improve.”
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