Is there enough of a deterrent to stop this in football?

Joe Hart and fanWhenever big games arrive there is always that one clown which ruins it for everyone. They let their emotions spill over and make an obscene gesture, chant or worse attempt to cause physical harm by confronting a player and throwing objects within a crowd.

It is easy to get carried away and misjudge what the police do, particularly within away ends, to stop these mindless fools.  They can only do so much.  The Manchester City fan who stormed onto the pitch to confront Rio Ferdinand had been a season ticket holder for 3 season and not suggested a hint of trouble. The football banning orders are being used to full effect and you would expect that the gentlemen involved this incident will receive one.

A football banning order is great because it stops the fans that cause the slightest hint of trouble entering a ground. The risks of receiving one is seen as too high for misbehaving usually as the authorities quite rightly take a hard line stance against this in the Premier League. There is always a problem with the way people behave in general but this is one society suffers as a whole from not just football.

There was three arrests and football banning orders slapped on those who stormed the pitch in a pre-season friendly against Darlington from the Newcastle away end; this was a prime example of the instigators of trouble being duly dealt with. The Magpies handed out lifetime bans. Newcastle United then realised their responsibility to protect those fans looking for a good day out and minimise risk of people ruining it for everyone. So they changed their away ticketing policy to members only, rather than a public sale to stop day-trippers going to a game with the pure intention of trouble.

The police are not stupid either, whilst I admit judging characters by the clothing brand may seem extreme there is a correlation between this and football hooliganism. A lot of the club hooligan firms like to associate themselves with brands such as Stone Island to deflect away from being visible in club colours. These characters still appear noticeably shifty and they are firmly kept an eye upon.

In the derby matches and particularly at the Riverside the police have been known to carry handheld cameras or wear them, to try and instantly spot the troublemakers. This was how all the offenders involved in the Mido Chanting between Newcastle and Middlesborough were caught in 2008. The thugs don’t seem to escape even when they come in large numbers. The court case that sent several on trial following the despicable chanting towards Sol Campbell in the Portsmouth v Tottenham match at Fratton Park in the same year was evidence of this. An illustration of the awareness of the police has extended to sending the same officers to the same club’s every game. Wigan Athletic have designated police that travel wherever they go, so they will know which fans to keep an eye on if they are not part of the regular supporters who attend.

There is also a knowledge of the link between drinking alcohol and the likelihood to cause trouble. Football grounds have both stewards and police checking for people too drunk to enter a football ground and one or both refuse fans entry to avoid any risks.  The reason this usually works is because you have the police to provide a sense of objectivity to decisions made. There is a fine balance between deciding whether someone is just there to enjoy the game and can be left to their own devices or whether there needs to be intervention.

The stewards at both Anfield and White Hart Lane are known to be heavy handed and make rash decisions, and I have seen first-hand the police step in to help fans unfairly treated at these venues, so the combination of the two authorities stops unnecessary targeting of fans. The incidents such as the coin throwing incident at the Etihad stadium puts pressure on the stewards to be overly vigilant hence why you have two sets of powers deciding which fans stay in and go out. There are some anomaly cases but on the whole if you go to a game with the intention to support your football team and enjoy the day out, the whole notion of football thuggery passes you by. The people that stare at home or away ends looking to taunt the opposition supporters are usually ejected, and the fans looking to appreciate the game in peace are left alone.

It is difficult to complain when a lot of fans talk of their disappointment at the rise of the armchair fan and sky sports, so to detract from this you need to keep passion within the fans.  The police are there to ensure that rivalry doesn’t turn sour.  The sad fact of the matter is that those who want trouble outside the ground will go to extreme lengths to find it, but inside the ground it is usually condemned to idiotic individuals. So before we get sucked in to believing that football encourages thugs we should look at what the authorities do to ensure the opposite is the case.