Two FA Cup pitch invasions have made the headlines this month, drawing the media into a discussion over whether an invasion of the pitch is simply an expression of pride for your football club, or whether it represents something uglier - something reminiscent of days when "hooliganism" dominated football.
The two matches that have sparked this debate were Aston Villa versus West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park, and most recently Reading versus Bradford City at the Madejski stadium. Aston Villa had beaten West Brom for the second time in a week to secure a place at Wembley in the semi-finals of the Cup, as fans invaded the pitch three times. At the Madejski, a lone forward-roller took to the pitch during the match, before the Reading fans celebrated on the pitch after a place at Wembley was ensured.
After the Villa versus West Brom match, there were claims that Fabian Delph had been bitten by a fan while Albion players Joleon Lescott and Callum McManaman were confronted and pushed by fans. This information is certainly a point of interest during this debate - should footballer supporter expression and support come at the expense of the safety of footballers and others on the pitch? The obvious answer is categorically no.
However, it can be argued that the media has focused too much on this point of information, and has since tarred a majority of supporters with the brush of a minority. Simply put, the majority of supporters who choose to run onto the pitch to celebrate their team earning a place in the semi finals of the FA Cup to be played at the palace of English football - Wembley stadium, are literally doing just that. They are celebrating, they have no intention of hurting the footballers they pay hard earned money to come and watch, and equally they would likely be shocked and disgusted at other supporters of their football club intending to hurt the players.
In any football invasion that has ever occurred, there was a chance of one supporter going onto the pitch with the intention of hurting a footballer. However, just because something comes with a risk, does not mean that it should immediately be banned. Should we ban driving because every day there are car accidents with possible fatalities? The resounding answer is no. However, we can strive to make driving safer and thus attempt to prevent car accidents. Just because a danger is posed by a pitch invasion, does not mean that we need to ban them - it just means that we could possibly think about ways to make them safer.
For example, providing high intensity matches with more stewarding support, and giving stewards better resources during their training to allow them to recognise the signs that a pitch invasion is likely and therefore being able to carry out fast and basic safety precautions; i.e. giving them a chance to ensure the players are off the pitch before it happens. Of course, the FA is not going to be able to perform a ginormous risk assessment on pitch invasions to ensure there is 0% risk, but the risk can be minimised without the need to ban the action.
It is also important to note the difference between invading the pitch during play, and invading the pitch after play. It is entirely ridiculous to invade the pitch during play, and those fans should be punished - what good does it bring to a game of football to see a shirtless supporter running up and down the pitch? All it does is hold up the game of football - believe me, I've seen two chickens invade Ewood Park now, and after approximately 30 seconds, the comedic value does wear off. It also disrupts the motion of play - team A could be on course to score, but as soon as a streaker starts gamboling in front of the goal the opportunity is ruined.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that while there are always going to be a few mindless fans who initiate trouble at football, it is not fair to say that the majority should be punished because of this. At a time where football is ruled by oligarchs, money and corporation, why should fans, who pay good money towards that club, not be allowed to celebrate on and share the pitch they watch every week?
@Woody44z - I quite like to see a pitch invasion after a huge cupset or a successful relegation battle. Individuals during game moronic.
@StutheBadger - Nothing wrong with fans celebrating an important victory after the final whistle as long as they don't intimidate players or cause damage to property.
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