Tag Archives: Aston Villa

Pitch invaders should not face imprisonment

I was sitting there at Sunday lunchtime having a cup of tea (Assam tea, little splash of milk) with the Birmingham v Aston Villa game on in the back ground. I was not really takingnotice when it happened. A fan ran on the pitch and punched Jack Grealish.

It was shocking.

Like many others, I like a drink before the game and get myself well up for the North London Derby. Adrenaline is running, you are on edge. Anything could happen. But running on the pitch and punching a player – that is simply idiotic behaviour.

A few hours later, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his penalty, an Arsenal fan ran on the pitch and pushed Chris Smalling before attempting to join the Arsenal celebrations.

Now I do not know whether this fans had watched the Birmingham v Aston Vila game prior, and was inspired by what he saw, but it was another silly act.

These two incidents were on the back of a Hibernian fan attacking Rangers’ James Tavernier on Friday night.

Three incidents in the space of 3 days.

The authorities will come down hard in all 3 cases, using the full of weight of the law to prosecute and punish.

On Sky Sports, they talked about making “entering the field of play” a criminal offence. It already is.

Under the Football (Offences) Act 1991 it is an offence for a person at a designated football match to go onto the playing area, or any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse (which shall be for him to prove).

As it stands, the criminal punishment for entering the field of play is a fine. A court will also likely hand out a 3 year Football Banning Order (FBO) if it is a first offence. This banning order can increase to a life time banning order depending severity of offence and previous offences.

Clubs also have the civil power of banning fans from the ground in the same way a pub can ban a punter. It is private land. They can choose to ban however they want for however long they like.

In the case of the Birmingham fan, he will probably receive a life ban. It is not just that he ran onto the pitch, but he also assaulted Grealish.

He will be prosecuted under the Football (Offences) Act for entering the field of play but also likely to be prosecuted for common assault Criminal Justice Act 1988. This could lead to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months. (Note: he was given 14 weeks).

The CPS who probably also try and add Actual bodily Harm (ABH) in as this carries a sentence up to 5 years. However as there has been no bodily harm, this will probably fail and he will be convicted of common assault (note: he plead guilty to common assault).

In the cases of the Arsenal and Hibs fans, they will be fined and banned. Probably for 3 years by the courts and longer by the clubs.

All for 30 seconds of fame.

Pitch invasions are not a new thing.

For years in the League Cup Arsenal have suffered from silly children running on the pitch, and recently a YouTube channel decided to invade a Tottenham European tie. Whilst these are harmless acts, all would have been arrested and prosecuted.

The concern for the authorities is 3 incidents live on Sky over 3 days have shamed the English game.

They have a brand to protect, and will ensure that all those involved will be prosecuted to the full extent.

My concern is that the law makers go OTT.

Like with the Dangerous Dogs Act, governments throughout history have responded disproportionally to a minority of offences as they gained public interest. This results in them quickly passing legislation without thinking of the greater impact.

If they add imprisonment to the punishment for those fans that enter the field of play, it could have far reaching consequences.

Yes, the Birmingham fan deserves jail time as he assaulted a player. No one should fear being assaulted when at work – or any other time.

But if they role out imprisonment for all pitch invaders, this could be misused.

There was an incident a few years ago during an Arsenal v Manchester United game that highlights this.

“When Manchester United were away to Arsenal last season,” says Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Federation, “Rooney scored a winner and about half a dozen fans went tumbling over the barriers as the crowd surged forward. Clearly they weren’t trying to run on the pitch, it was just the momentum that carried them over. They all got arrested and charged with pitch encroachment. One pleaded guilty, the others pleaded not guilty, but the magistrates were pretty disparaging that the case had been brought at all.”

You could be completely innocent and be punished over a barrier, or simply be caught up in celebrating a goal, and end up with 6 months in jail.

Jumping on the pitch is not the equivalent of assault; so should not have the same maximum punishment.

The UK has a huge knife problem at the moment.

Sentencing guidelines indicate courts must impose a mandatory six month minimum prison term on those caught carrying a knife for a second time.

So you could be caught carrying a knife twice before being handed a 6 months sentence (and only in 63% of cases have people been sentenced to 6 months for their 2nd offence), or you could be jailed for 6 months for entering the field of play once whilst celebrating a goal.

It clearly is not a proportionate offence and the law makers need to think carefully before adding imprisonment to the list of possible punishments.

The bigger concern for me as a fan is that these fans behaviour supports those who do not want to see a return of Safe Standing. It supports the law which bans drinking in view of the pitch at football. And it supports kick offs at noon for big games.

Next season when Birmingham play Aston Villa it will be at 11:30am.

Fans will moan, they will complain, blame the police, the TV companies. The real person to blame is the chap who ran on the pitch and assaulted Grealish.

The actions of a single fan have consequences for every single other fan that go’s.

I do not want early kick offs for “security reasons”. I want to be able to stand and watch the game. Have a beer. But whilst people continue to misbehave.

Those who ran onto the pitch over the weekend will face proportionate consequences. My fear is that we will see a disproportionate response from the law makers and the consequences for the majority of fans could be greater.

Think before you run on the pitch.

Keenos

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When was the last time your club won a trophy?

The fall out from this season continues. A lot of talk about progression over trophies and that Spurs finishing 2nd is a more successful season than Arsenal winning the FA Cup (if they do) got me thinking.

We had a decade of the media going mad every time Arsenal got knocked out of a competition. An extra year added to the Years Arsenal have gone without a trophy spreadsheet. And the press are already counting the years since the last league title.

Now whilst the decade of Arsenal not winning a trophy and 13 years without a league title is too long, and each year hurts, I do notice a double standard.

No other side in English football has their Years since they won something documented as much as Arsenal. So I put together a little bar chart. And this then expanded to a few more bar charts. Some of you might find it interesting reading. Others will probably say I am just trying to deflect from the criticism of Arsene Wenger and justify our failures using other clubs failures.

Whatever your thoughts or agenda, the below does make interesting reading:

Promotion and Relegation – The view of a travelling fan

Being an away day traveller gives you a different outlook as to who you want to be promoted and relegated. Rather than just thinking who you like / dislike, you being to think about the best away trips, the cost of the trips, stadiums you have not yet been too, etc.

With today being the last day of The Championship, and with 2 Premier League sides potentially to get relegated this weekend, it would now be wise to discuss who we want to stay up (and go down) and who we would like to see come up.

Leicester and Burnley are already up. Leicester is a trip I am already looking forward too. Anything around the Midlands is reasonable when it comes to train times and costs. And with Arsenal having only played at the King Power (formerly Walkers) Stadium once, it is a ground where many, including myself, has yet to visit. The only downside is, like many new stadium built since 2000, it is not in the city centre, leaving a 30 minute walk from whatever watering hole you are in.

Burnely is somewhere many have done before. It is a backwater at the edge of Lancashire, where racism and football violence is still right. Am I happy they are up? No, it will be a horrid trip to a ground we have visited 3 times over the last 6 years.

When it comes to the rest of the Championship, Derby, QPR & Wigan are confirmed in the play-offs. The last spot is between Reading and Brighton. Derby, like Leicester, would be a good trip. We last visited 6 years ago, and scored 6. Just a 10 minute walk from the station, an hour and a half train journey from London, it ticks a lot of boxes and is my personal favorite.

QPR is a cheap trip if you live in London, but not a very exciting one. I was happy when they went down, and will not be too unhappy if they fail to come back up. The only factor which might change things is if Fulham go down. It is always good to have a decent amount of London sides in the Premier League to keep rail costs down. Losing Fulham (discussed later) would leave just 4 London trips (Chelsea, Spurs, West Ham, Crystal Palace). I can leave QPR, as long as Fulham stay up.

Wigan is my worst nightmare. A half hour walk from the station, it is another stadium which has been built on an industrial estate in the middle of no where. Most Arsenal fans would have previously done the trip, so it is certainly the team I would least like to see promoted.

The last two, Brighton and Reading, are very similar. New stadiums which we have been too recently (for cup games), both towns easy to get to cheaply by train. But both have the same flaw. When you get to Reading or Brighton, getting to the stadium is then a nightmare.

For Brighton, you have to queue up for another train to get to the stadium, a train which only leaves every 15 minutes. It is not too bad when going to the stadium, but it causes massive delays getting away from the stadium.

In the same vain, Reading is also a nightmare to get too and from the town centre. They put on buses to and from the stadium but these always have lengthy queues. It is a nightmare, especially after the game.

My personal favourite? Derby, unless Fulham go down then QPR.

Today, both Fulham and Cardiff could go down. One is a loss, the other I do not care for.

Cardiff, again, is a ground on the edge of town. A 30-40 minute walk filled with snarling sheep shagging Welshman. It takes over 2 hours to get to Cardiff from London (longer if the train is diverted via Gloucester due to engineering works) and is fairly costly. It is not a nice trip, and one which I certainly will not be missing. Bye bye Cardiff.

Fulham will be a loss. Whether you go on one of the many fan group arranged boat trips, or head to the river for a drink in one of the many pubs, it is a top trip. With zero rail costs and friendly atmosphere, it has been one of the best away days of recent years – especially when it is sunny. Add in that after the game, you are 10 minutes from Central London, it is one which you can make a full day of it. This year we were signing and dancing about Lukas Podolski until the early hours in Liverpool Street. If Fulham go down, it will be a sad day for the Arsenal Away boys.

The other sides in the relegation dog fight are Hull, WBA, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Norwich. We can almost discount Hull and WBA as they are 5 and 4 points away from the relegation zone respectively, with a game in hand on many of those below them. That leaves Villa, Sunderland and Norwich.

Aston Villa is a bit of a shitter to get too, with a train or taxi required to be taken once you get into Birmingham, but as already mentioned, I have an affinity with the Midlands. Under 2 hours to get their, decent train costs, it is a perfect away day outside of London. Birmingham is also a city I love to drink in before an away day, with the Shakespeare just outside the stadium being my place of choice. Aston Villa are a proper football club, Villa Park a proper football stadium. I do not want them to go down.

Sunderland is a horrible place. Whilst it has giving me my two best away days over the last 2 seasons – mainly due to the 5 hour journey’s (engineering problems) meaning I could barely walk once I got back to Kings Cross, it is a stadium I will not be fussed about going too again. If all go’s well ,it is a 3 hour train trip, you will be getting a sore arse by the end of it. But that only drops you into Newcastle, you then need to get the train to Sunderland. With a cost upwards of £100 for the train ticket, it is the most expensive day out.

Newcastle is a good city to drink in pre-game, but the post-game rush from Sunderland stadium, to the station, then to Newcastle has plenty looking at their watches for train times. Add in Sky’s enjoyment of putting teams a large distance apart on an evening kick off (or Monday night this year), there is always the chance that there will not be trains back. Sunderland are certainly a team that I would like to see relegated.

With Newcastle safe, we still get the trip to the North East next season, but without the arsehole bit after getting into Newcastle.

Finally we come to Norwich, who we could relegate next weekend. And I hope we do. A ticket cost of £50 is disgraceful. A lot has been made of our £62 ticket for Manchester City, but at least you get to watch Manchester City and Arsenal. £50 to watch Norwich? No thanks, especially when we only charged their fans £26.

It should tick all the boxes. Cheap train trip, reasonable travelling time, nice town with the stadium close to the train station. But their greed ruins it. They can fuck off.

So who do I want to go down? Cardiff, Sunderland and Norwich, with Derby coming the other way.

Keenos