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Pitch invasions need to be stopped to protect people like Patrick Vieira

There have been suggestions over the 48 hours since the incident occurred that the FA may charge Patrick Vieira for the altercation he had with an Everton fan who goaded, shouted, rambled, insulted, cursed and abused him who ran through the chaos. of Goodison Park. he pitched on Thursday and decided to celebrate his team’s release from relegation by provoking the Crystal Palace manager.

“Suck that, muppet,” the Everton fan yelled at Vieira, as he danced unsteadily around him in the post-match chaos, waving the V sign on his face. He then he yelled, ‘Whaaaaay, fuck you. We know all this because the Brain of Britain in question was recording it with his mobile phone, hungry for a moment of fame, not caring a little that it was a moment of ignominy.

He seemed surprised when Vieira, who was being pushed and surrounded, reacted and kicked him. So surprised that he fell over. People like him have grown accustomed to the impunity of social media, where they can insult whoever they want from a safe place and, unless the abuse is particularly egregious, there will be no repercussions. When you yell insults at someone face-to-face, there are often consequences.

The idea that somehow Vieira is the person who has done something wrong here is a bad joke. Football and the people who run it should be under investigation, not the boss of Crystal Palace. Football – the Premier League, the FA, Everton – left him exposed in the middle of a mob. They put him in danger. They left him vulnerable to an attack at his workplace. It is the pitch invaders and the authorities that enable them who should be under investigation, not Vieira.

So I’m sorry to fall back on a cliché favored by previous generations, but given that these scenes of mob violence on our football pitches feel like a throwback to the 1980s, perhaps it’s appropriate: the FA should give Vieira a medal. For what he did at Goodison, don’t criticize or investigate or penalize him.

Enough is enough. If no one in the Premier League or the Football League was going to resist, thank God for Vieira. Players and coaches have become easy targets on our pitches. It’s about time one of them pointed out that the danger they are subjected to is absolutely unacceptable before someone dies.

Patrick Vieira was outwitted by a pitch invader at Goodison Park on Thursday night

Patrick Vieira was outwitted by a pitch invader at Goodison Park on Thursday night

Vieira kicked the fan and could now be sanctioned by the FA for his performance

Vieira kicked the fan and could now be sanctioned by the FA for his performance

Accuse me of hyperbole for that if you want, but think about it first. I still hear people say that we have to do something about field invasions before a player or coach is seriously injured. But someone has already been seriously injured. Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp needed medical treatment after being crushed by a fan after Nottingham Forest’s play-off victory over the Blades at the City Ground last week.

Forest season ticket holder Robert Biggs was jailed for six months and banned from football fields for 10 years for his disgusting assault on Sharp, who was standing on the sideline as fans swarmed field. Biggs launched a flying header at Sharp, who did not see the attack coming. He suffered cuts and bruises. He was lucky, in a way. It could have been much, much worse.

In another world, fans running onto a field to celebrate would be a spontaneous show of joy. But this is a footballing climate where joy often curdles quickly into anger, provocation or mockery.

I was at Edgeley Park last Sunday to see Stockport County seal promotion to the Football League after 11 years further down the pyramid and while it’s tempting to look the other way when it comes to your own club, there were seeds of concern in the field invasion that occurred at the end of the game against Halifax Town.

The fans were concentrated on the touchline five minutes before the end. Any pretense of keeping them at bay had been abandoned. I was initially worried that they would invade the field before the end and the game would be abandoned. That didn’t happen, but I did watch the referee in those final seconds and he started running towards the tunnel before the final whistle blew.

Billy Sharp was headbutted during a pitch invasion at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday

Billy Sharp was headbutted during a pitch invasion at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday

Then the crowd moved on. And there was joy. And, to my knowledge, none of the Halifax players or staff were mistreated. And I saw Stockport centre-forward Scott Quigley dancing with fans and other players being carried on high. But again, joy was not enough. Other fans ran towards the Halifax supporters and hurled missiles at their ranks. Some Halifax fans returned fire. It was not a good look.

There has been a feeling this past week that the social contract of English football has been broken. It has generally been assumed that the field is sacred and that anyone who trespasses on it is committing an infraction and will be dealt with. That contract, however, requires mutual respect for it to work, and that respect is gone.

A pitch should be like a theater stage. The audience stays on the sidelines. That was one of the reasons Will Smith’s foray into the Oscars when he walked onstage and slapped Chris Rock in the face was so shocking. He violated a convention. People worried that he would create copycat attacks, and this month a man jumped onstage and attacked comedian Dave Chappelle while he was performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

When a convention is broken, it is like a wall collapsing. It is the same in football. An invasion of the field has generated others. Often the announcers, desperate to invent the passion that their meddling with the game’s traditions has eroded, hype up these infractions only to recoil when they realize what they’ve helped unleash.

So what is to be done? Some have suggested a return to the billboards of the 1980s. That must be avoided at all costs. It’s not worth going to football if we go back to treating fans like animals. That would be a sign of defeat.

Pitch invasions like the one at Goodison Park cannot be allowed to continue in football

Pitch invasions like the one at Goodison Park cannot be allowed to continue in football

But the breakdown in the order of games cannot be allowed to continue. The game, at least in the Premier League, is full of money. Part of it must be used to guarantee the safety of its participants because, without being able to guarantee it, we have no game. At a course like Goodison Park, there is no excuse for what happened to Vieira.

As a first step, if clubs cannot pay for security and policing to prevent invasions, then they must pay for the protection of men like Vieira and Sharp and the Swindon players who were attacked by Port Vale fans late in their game. of League Two. -offside last week.

Beyond that, we have reached the stage where clubs need to be punished for the actions of their fans. Their actions are the responsibility of the club and they must face it. They must be warned that an invasion of the field of play will mean not only a fine, but also the dispute of a match behind closed doors and, beyond that, the deduction of points.

It’s a shame a few have spoiled it for the many, but from now on anyone running onto the pitch should expect to be prosecuted and ejected from the stadium. We live in a society where we’re told we can be anything we want and experience is a myth, but it’s time to remind fans that their place is in the stands. The field of play is the preserve of the players.

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