English Premier League club Everton announced that its entire board of directors has been instructed to not attend Saturday's home match against Southampton due to safety concerns.
In a statement, Everton said Chairman Bill Kenwright, CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Chief Finance & Strategy Officer Grant Ingles and Non-Executive Director Graeme Sharp would miss the match after it was determined there is a "real and credible threat to their safety and security."
Everton added the decision was made after the club received "malicious and unacceptably threatening correspondence" in addition to increased instances of "targeted physical aggression" at recent home matches.
"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 club spokesperson said.
Per Greg O'Keeffe and David Ornstein of The Athletic, Barrett-Baxendale and Kenwright were both the subject of threats recently.
Barrett-Baxendale was reportedly put in a headlock by a fan at a recent home game, and "sexually aggressive" comments were made toward her as well. She also reportedly received an email that wished for her and her son to get cancer, and her car was surrounded following a recent game.
It was also reported that Kenwright received emails in which it was stated that he "would not leave Liverpool alive."
Everton has endured a frustrating season that has seen the team fall toward the bottom of the table. Approaching the halfway point in the season, Everton entered play Saturday in 18th place in the EPL with only 15 points.
If the standings stay that way for the remainder of the season, Everton would be relegated for only the third time in club history and the first time since 1951.
Everton has been in the top flight of English football since returning from relegation in 1954, and it has never dropped out of the EPL since it was first established in 1992.
Although Everton has been a top-half club at times in the EPL era, its struggles have been evident in recent years. The Toffees finished 16th last season, which was the closest the team had come to relegation since a 17th-place finish in 2003-04.
Saturday represents a golden opportunity for Everton to move up the table, as it is hosting a Southampton squad that is in last place in the EPL with just 12 points.