Football field invasions can only be tolerated as an act of celebration – not ugly chaos – Mike Walters

Pitch invasions and fans wielding pyrotechnics are on the rise in football as supporters have returned from the Covid lockdown, but some are taking it too far

Huddersfield Town fans stormed the pitch after their side defeated Luton in the Championship playoffs
Huddersfield Town fans stormed the pitch after their side defeated Luton in the Championship playoffs

Stepping on the grass at a football game is a punishable offense – and has been since 1991.

Possession of pyrotechnic devices at a football match has been a criminal offense for 37 years.

Ticket sales have been banned since the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

And throwing rockets at a football game has been a criminal offense for 31 years.

Why, you might be wondering, are we suddenly seeing hundreds of fans taking trips onto the pitch with impunity?

Why does every game now seem to be fought amidst the evil brimstone shroud of smoke bombs or flares?

Why are we greeted at every tube station near a Premier League game by seedy Del Boy guys trying to resell tickets?

And why are stewards instructed to confiscate harmless plastic bottle caps at turnstiles – but there doesn’t seem to be any urgent intervention to detain coin-flip pond creatures?

Fans flocked to the pitch at John Smith’s Stadium on Monday
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Picture:

PA)

Hooliganism and unwanted followers have never disappeared from English football. They just lied low.

But if we’re not careful, the feral scum that once made soccer fields no-go areas for families or sane people will take over again, like the Leylandii next door blocking your sunlight.

The Herberts are again infiltrating our national game like bugs coming out to play during the bubonic plague – and they need to be stopped. Following Monday night’s narrow Huddersfield Town Championship play-off semi-final win over Luton, some of the worrying symptoms were evident.

Hatters manager Nathan Jones complained that Terriers fans who addressed his players and mocked them with obscene gestures were an “absolute disgrace”.

An 85-year-old guest fan was hit in the forehead by a coin. Luton midfielder Jordan Clark reacted angrily to the slaps as he ventured to greet the traveling contingent from Bedfordshire.

On social media, that well-known haven of knee-jerk bias, some commenters were quick to point out that Luton’s own mad fringe had chased York City players off the field, forcing them to hide in the back of a grandstand after yet another unfortunate end to the Playoffs 12 years ago.

True, but here’s the rub: What’s the use of all those laws that govern soccer games if you don’t enforce them?

Liverpool fans celebrated winning the FA Cup with smoke bombs and flares
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Picture:

The FA via Getty Images)

Surely the Football Offenses Act 1991 should be amended to focus on ruffians who invade the field to intimidate or threaten, rather than those who just want to be from the dizzying celebration of que sera, sera, whatever will, are caught.

In the rush to criminalize football fans, there is a risk of falling back into the dark ages. Treat backers like animals and they will often behave accordingly.

The current fad of decorating matches with pyrotechnics may be temporary – but woe to football if anyone is blinded or burned by a smoke bomb as wayward as Chelsea and Liverpool have been in two Wembley finals this season. It’s become such a clichéd celebration that one laughs when smuggling canisters to the stewards proves a futile exercise.

In last week’s 0-0 draw between Watford and Everton, the Toffees’ performance was so timid that, lacking in goals to celebrate, their fireworks corps waited until the final whistle to throw half a dozen blue flares onto the pitch because they could don’t bother bringing them home. What a sad charade: Ee-aye-adio, we drew 0-0 at a club that had lost their previous 11 at home.

Advertisers and black marketers remain a source of irritation, like gnats on summer nights, rather than an inherent danger – until they whip out a few seats in the home division against ticketless antagonists.

Everton fans threw blue smoke bombs onto the pitch at Watford
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Picture:

REUTERS)

And as for the Huddersfield gang baiting their downed rival fans with loose change… what actually? Grow up, you worthless dregs. You’ll be thankful for that money in your pocket when the cost-of-living crisis hits.

This is not diatribe aimed solely at the Terriers, a proud club with a decent, vocal core. Good luck to them at Wembley. And I personally don’t have a problem with drops in pitches if they’re spontaneous acts of joy and there’s no interference from beaten or depressed players, coaching staff or fans. But as acts of war they should never be tolerated.

Now we are approaching the final stretches of the 2021/22 season, as a reminder fans were locked out by Covid 12 months ago.

If people are acting like sewer rats, maybe it would have been better to leave it that way.

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