Often Partisan

Blame

Twenty four hours on from a league cup quarter final victory over our hated rivals from across the expressway, and only one thing has dominated the post-match discussion in the media and on the messageboards – the aftermath. Blues fans were universally condemned for being hooligans by nearly all sections of the media, and I’m sure some people are blaming us for England not getting the 2018 World Cup.

I’m no sympathiser with hooligans. I blame them for robbing me of going to the football as a youngster; my dad was never a fan anyway, and after the Leeds riot of 1985 there was no way he was going to take me to the football – why take a child into a situation where someone could get killed; especially if you don’t even care about the result, the match or even the team. Thus it wasn’t until I was in my late teens and I could go of my own volition that I got the chance to be a proper fan. I’m a season ticket holder now (as is my own child), but I could quite easily have been lost to other pursuits – and I’m sure that I’m in no way the only one who was affected in such a way.

That being said, I’m not going to condemn everyone who ran on the pitch last night as a knuckle dragging lunatic. Walking back from the ground to the bus stop with Andy, webmaster for the Smallheathalliance website, we were both quite angry with the scenes that had unfolded on the pitch after the final whistle. Both of us agreed that the potential for violence could have dire consequences for the club, and that those who had gone on the pitch hadn’t done the club any favours whatsoever and should be treated with the full force of the law. However, now having time to digest what happened, and to read several accounts of what happened from several sources, I think I’m more settled in the way I see things.

The fact is, a pitch invasion was always going to happen. The match had too much riding on it; many people had taken the opportunity to have a few drinks and get whipped up into a frenzy. A dramatic winner from Zigic in the face of a poor performance from our team and a poorer performance from the officials meant people were even more pumped with the result. Those levels of hysteria are only going to cause one eventuality – people are going to celebrate on the pitch. Yes, it’s an offence to run on the pitch punishable with a fine and a ban, but when your team has just done the Villa at home in such a manner common sense goes out of the window for many fans.

This is why I believe the vast majority of the fans who ran on the pitch were doing so in joyful celebration; to grab the players and hug them; to show their excitement at such a win. I saw many people just facing the Tilton, holding their arms in the air, sucking in the atmosphere. If that’s all it had been, things wouldn’t have been a problem. However, in my opinion three factors combined to give the dramatic images plastered all over the back pages this morning. Firstly, a minority of fans were up for the fight. All that mattered to them was to get to the Villa fans, to taunt them and if the opportunity arose to crack some heads. Secondly, and more crucially, the thin blue line of the West Midlands Police force allowed these fans to get within throwing distance of the Villa fans. Separated by a distance of more than 30 or 40 yards, fans would have just bellowed at each other – no harm done. However, this wasn’t the case.

So you’ve got two sets of fans, with a sizeable minority of each baying for blood, within throwing distance of each other. This is when the third crucial factor came in – fans had smuggled in a flare. Flares are prohibited objects in football grounds, and it’s the job of the stewards to ensure nothing of this ilk is brought in – evidently, they failed on this front big time. This is something that needs to be straightened out, as the mainstream media got it completely wrong so far – the flare was initially thrown from the Villa end. An opposition fan brought in an object that only had one use – to intentionally cause harm. It wasn’t just Birmingham City who had a minority of fans dragging the club’s name through the mud – the Villa had their idiots playing up too.

Combine these three factors, and hell breaks loose. The flare is thrown into the blues fans; who react in a very simplistic, fight or flight reaction and throw it back. And so on, and so forth. Chairs, coins and other objects are thrown between the two. Where are the West Midland’s finest? In the back, filming it all. Rather than getting stuck in and pulling these muppets apart, they’re making movies so they can arrest perpetrators at their leisure. This might seem sensible, in that it’s preventing police injuries but it’s also not stopping the situation. Innocent people were being hurt – villa fans at the front being hit by objects thrown from the back of the stand for instance – and nothing is being done to stop this.

The violence within the ground wasn’t anywhere near as made out. It was a small minority of both sets of fans who were involved. Sadly, those fans would have been involved regardless of the time of day, the place, anything – they don’t come to the football for the game, they come to fight. Rather than blaming alcohol, or over-exuberance, the police and the stewards should have prevented both sets of fans from getting close enough to each other within the ground to hurt each other. We as a club pay the police in excess of fifty thousand pounds for their services at a match like this – surely it’s not too much to ask to actually receive some service for this money?

Today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper. As bad as hooliganism is, it’s not just a Birmingham City problem – not by a long chalk. As reprehensible as some of last night’s events were, in the grand scheme of things they weren’t that bad. It wasn’t a Leeds Riot of 1985; it was a St Andrews celebration akin to that of 2002 when we beat the Villa 3-0. Spurs will come this weekend and the ground will be dead again – the funky fans won’t be there, and things will be okay. Criticise those Blues fans that were involved, throw the book at them – but the blame must be levelled at the Villa fans that were involved, and the police who let it all happen.

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5 Responses to “Blame”

  • Kev says:

    I take everything you have said, and I can see your point – and agree with much of it.

    However, my opinion on this is simple. It is illegal to run on a football pitch and anyone who does so risks their club being fined or worse. So for me that alone is bad enough. However they decided to run up to the Villa fans and goad them. That of course was only going to result in one thing, trouble.

    Yes the police probably should have done better, like trying to walk the Blues fans back up the pitch quicker than they did, however – they wouldn’t have had to if the fans hadn’t gone on the pitch in the first place.

  • almajir says:

    I stated in the article that it’s illegal to run on the pitch. The problem is it’s easy to be dispassionate and reasonable at home, sober. Having had ten pints, and seen your team win like that reason goes out the window.

    I didn’t run on the pitch – but I’m not that sort of person. I’m not like others though, I can contain my joy. It’s all about context, and about intent. When we beat Ipswich 4-1 in the League Cup Semi in 2001, the fans invaded the pitch but it was okay, it was a celebration, nothing more. This was similar, but there was a faction up for the fight. Punish those with malicious intent; warn on the follies of irresponsible actions those who wanted to celebrate, and move on.

  • Meefee says:

    Good blog. Villa fans invaded their pitch after they beat Blackburn in the league cup last year, but the stewards kept a “high line” across the pitch and they got nowhere near the Blackburn fans. Had they got within “throwing distance” and had seats and flares thrown at them, I’m sure that they would have reacted in a similar manner. It comes down to poor stewarding and/or policing. The line should have been moved up straight away and it could have all been chalked off as over-exuberance. Inside of the ground anyway.

    Lets look at the violent facts. Villa threw the flare first. Villa fans smashed the seats and threw them towards the pitch first. Villa fans smashed the toilet facilites and filmed themselves doing it before posting it on youtube (hope the police see it before it gets removed). Yet, according to the media, including the Evening Mail, it’s all Birmingham City’s fault. Go figure.

    Mind you, no-one has liked us for years so this doesn’t really change anything. We’re not even a Marmite club.

  • gavin says:

    I thought the Blues fans showed passion and any attempt to dish a slapping out to the Villa fans can only applauded. Politically incorrect I know but the Villa fans deserve it, even Jesus hates them.

  • […] for a derby game, how many policemen are in the picture? After the last derby, in the League Cup I criticised the police heavily for their actions. I’m afraid I’m going to have to do it again […]


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