|The recent pitch
invasions at Barnsley during their game against Liverpool
have taken English football back a few years in regaining
its reputation in European eyes. However, let's look
behind the initial brouhaha about the fans behaviour and
the reasons why it may have happened.
The people coming onto the field of play were doing so after dubious decisions by the referee in the game. Now, while not condoning their actions in any way, shape or form, it is perhaps understandable that fans of a team in their position have their passions inflamed, when so much is at stake. Look at our own position. Tottenham need points desperately to escape from the drop zone, but while it seems that things are going against us, I for one do not feel the need to encroach onto the pitch to confront the ref. He will not change his mind when players have a go at him, so why would my advice be heeded. Some things must always be so and one is that however wrong he is, the referee is always right. Armstrong's booking against Palace for diving was a prime example. Totally undeserved, as TV pictures showed there was contact, but the ref produced the yellow card and that could have led to his expulsion should the man in black taken the same action for Armo's handball later in the match. Would that have led to a riot too ?? I think that you only have to look at the FA Cup tie at Barnsley, when Stephen Clemence received a red card for diving as a second bookable offence. At the time, the match was delicately balanced at 0-0 and Spurs had a good chance of progressing into the next round, but in that split second, their chance had gone. The only remaining hope of a trophy this season had disappeared with the flash of the ref's hand. Did the Tottenham fans there storm on to show their anger ? Did they rush the pitch to demonstrate vehemently with the officials ? No, they were angry, yes, but realised that there was nothing that would have changed the situation.
The reaction of the Barnsley fans after the game, as shown on Match of the Day, was quite frightening. They were saying that it was all a set-up by the Premier League , to ensure that big clubs like Spurs, Everton and Newcastle were not relegated. How paranoid can you get?? It may have looked a fix from their point of view, but all the sending-offs had a semblance of justice to them. While the first is debatable whether there was any intent, the letter of the law says that Owen would have been in on goal and was therefore denied a goal-scoring opportunity. Hence, the red card for Barnard . The referee has no discretion these days. The second saw the Barnsley defender being out-paced by Owen and raised his elbow while running alongside him, catching Owen in the face. Some people have commented that with another player it may have caught him in the chest and that when you are trying to keep up with players your elbows come up. Well, it's not Owen's fault that he is that tall and Morgan had his elbows by his side until he'd caught up with the Liverpool striker. The third dismissal at the end of the game was for dissent and only the ref would know what was said and any player who is booked for dissent is a fool to himself (and to his team). It is unusual for so many players to be sent-off from one side in one game, but they were holding onto a point until the last minute. Against Liverpool, Spurs were leading until the final minute, but similarly conceded a McManaman goal at the death. Thus being robbed of two points, but a resigned acceptance followed not a pitch invasion.
The referee, Gary Willard, did himself or the crowd any favours by walking off the pitch, with no explanation. This action probably left the audience confused about what was going on and confirmed their opinion that he had lost control in a big way. Especially, if it is true that he left the pitch on the advice of the stewards.
The pressures that are evident in the Premier League these days, because of the large amounts of money at stake, are transmitted to the crowd and thus tempers do run high. However, it must be remembered that those pressures are on the referees too. Football is an integral part of many of our lives, but it is only a game after all. If fans can accept the winning, they should accept the defeats too. It's never easy, especially when you are at the foot of the table, but it just has to be done sometimes.
Back to homepage