Newcastle United fans weren’t the only ones to make light of the shocking revelations into Jimmy Savile’s private life, Leeds United fans also glorified the sick man. The last meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United was dominated pre-match and post-match by discussions of rival chants mocking moments of tragedy.
This hasn’t been a great period for the sport. The ugly scenes in Serbia over-shadowed the England under 21s’ progression to their fourth straight European Championship. But with all the horrors of last week put into context, I still think policing and football atmospheres are improving.
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Sure there’s still plenty of progress that can be made, but long gone are the days when black players have to put up with bananas being thrown on to the pitch, plus fears about hooliganism is almost a thing of the past. As a punter I really can’t remember ever feeling genuine fear in and around a football stadium.
Swearing, chanting and tribal behaviour of such are much rarer. Standing is discouraged in football grounds and generally Premier League games pass by without incident. At times football matches can even be overly policed by stewards now. Sunderland fans were kicked out at Anfield a few years ago for bringing beach balls to the game in reference to the corresponding fixture that year. In the past, Sir Alex Ferguson has criticised the lack of volume at Old Trafford – perhaps a result of greater policing and care around stadiums.
While all will be aware of the shocking incident in which Chris Kirkland was assaulted by a mindless thug, it was also extremely unnerving to see the hooligan re-enter the crowd. Although security was poor on that occasion, it’s easy to see this incident as somewhat of an anomaly and not something we’ll see again hopefully this season. The last incident personally of this gravity I witnessed was Shay Given being goaded by Sunderland fans on the pitch in 2008.
I think there’s a risk that a few poor incidents in rare, aggressive rivalries overshadows how the majority of football fans are well-behaved. This was one of the bitterest rivalries in football and Steven Taylor received ‘special’ treatment, due to quotes mocking the supporters and club. This was not an everyday situation, that’s likely to regularly reappear in the 38 game Premier League season at Sunderland. It is also highly unlikely the incident will reoccur in the Premier League this weekend as only a couple fixtures in the Premier League calendar match Sunderland and Newcastle for unnecessary nastiness.
I always believe it’s misleading to devote too much coverage, well beyond making people aware of the moment’s malice, and forgetting just how safe football has become.
I personally don’t believe football chants are spiralling out of control. If you want to bring more examples to the table, or disagree please get in touch with me on Twitter: @jimmylowson