Over the years, I have heard a lot of people talk absolute bollocks about the issue of hooliganism and in particular, the reasons why certain individuals behave as they do.
The pathetic hand-wringing and ‘it never went away’ type drivel which inevitably follows an incident of trouble inside a ground -be it racism or violence related- all too often leaves me shaking my head in amazement. It genuinely baffles me how supposedly intelligent people can be both blinkered and stupid at the same time.
This week however, has surpassed the lot.
Events in Manchester were terrible, that is true. The fact that a premiership footballer was almost blinded by a coin thrown from amongst rival supporters is something everyone involved with the game should be ashamed of just as we should be ashamed of the coins and missiles which were being thrown all the way through that game in much the way as they are at games up and down the country on a far too regular basis. Not just at players, but at rival fans, stewards and the police although this seems to have been largely forgotten (or ignored) by the back page mafia.
Yet what has amazed me has been the nature of the response to this particular incident. Not least the idea that to prevent such a thing happening again, we should hang nets from the front of every terrace roof in the land. Nets… for fucks sake.
Yes, a physical barrier of some description between fans and pitch would certainly minimise the risk of players being hit but let’s be practical shall we? Let’s think about this sensibly and talk about why it is quite possibly the most stupid idea to combat crowd problems since Ken Bates and his electric fence.
First, it wouldn’t work. You’d still get things thrown at the pitch only this time those that didn’t make it through the gaps in the mesh would bounce back onto the crowd. The legal consequences in the ‘duty of care’ sense would be immense.
Second, it would have no impact on missiles being thrown at rival fans.
Third, have you ever stood and watched a sporting event from behind mesh when the rain is pelting down? I have, and it’s like watching through fog. And what happens if it starts to sleet? Or you are required to evacuate the stand in a hurry? Or it falls onto the crowd?
The argument of course, is that such things would be considered during ‘development’ of any such system. Yeah right. Goal line technology, safe standing… how long have these things been being ‘considered’ and just how close are we having to either appearing in an English football ground?
Fourth, and possibly most importantly, if you put up a physical barrier you also put up a visible one. In this case, it would be akin to a flashing neon sign which might as well say ’Hooliganism: 40 years on and we’re back where we started.’ You can almost sense the victims of Heysel and Hillsborough spinning in their graves at the very suggestion.
Fifth and finally, the idea completely misses the point. For instead of finding a way of stopping missiles hitting players, why not consider the revolutionary concept of addressing the mentality of those who think throwing them is a good idea?
That of course, is the obvious thing to do. But of course football has been trying to do that since the 70’s and…. oh no, that’s right, it hasn’t. Because footballs answer to deal with the problem of hooliganism was to get the police to shove it out of the grounds, tell everyone things are better than it was in the 80’s (how many times have you heard that this week?) and hope the boys in blue would solve it. Which they didn’t because Old Bill’s job is not actually to change attitudes it is to enforce the law of the land. Something they continue to do and with some vigour whilst at the same time using football as quite possibly the best real-time crowd-control training facility any police force anywhere in the world has ever had.
That’s another debate entirely (read Barmy Army and Kicking Off if you want to know more about my views on the policing of football) but the fact remains that despite its claim to the contrary, the game as an entity has actually done little or nothing to combat hooliganism since the problem first began to show its fangs.
The coin which bounced off Rio Ferdinand’s forehead proved that conclusively and that is without a doubt the most shameful aspect of this whole sorry saga. (And before anyone mails me asking ‘so what would you do?’ I’ll be blogging about that very thing in a day or so.)
Thanks to everyone who has downloaded Wings of a Sparrow this week. Sales are even better than I could have hoped for and the reviews thus far have been amazing. I certainly never thought my writing would be compared to the legendary Tom Sharpe!
If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you will get around to it soon and if you have please leave a review somewhere and help me to spread the word.
In these days of digital books, word of mouth is the best advertising any book can have which is why authors such as myself are so keen to get those who read our work involved in the publishing process.
After all, current thinking is that a self-published author needs to spend 20% of their time writing and 80% of their time self-promoting! With at least two books to write, I’d rather have that the other way round but only you guys can help me with that.
So come on… get on with it!