Media Outrage Misplaced – Hooliganism Isn’t Back

Don’t let the exaggerated media reports persuade you otherwise: Saturday’s FA Cup Quarter Final between Aston Villa and West Brom wasn’t the dark day for football it was made out to be. Despite some quite astonishing diatribes, the atmosphere at Villa Park was as boisterous and joyous as it has been for a long, long time.

Moral Outrage
For the most part, the scenes at the end of the game were outbursts of overexcited supporters exulting in pure emotion, not the hooliganism it has been described as. For five years now, Villa have been in the doldrums with their fans in the depths of despair. This was a general outpouring of happiness, not anger.

BBC’s commentary team of Jonathan Pearce and Mark Lawrenson had called it “disgraceful” and a throwback to the 1980’s whilst we looked on at images of young children celebrating wildly amongst the masses; supporters taking selfies with stewards in the goalmouth as thousands engulfed the pitch in over-exuberant revelry.

Soccer - FA Cup - Sixth Round - Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - Villa Park

If certainly wasn’t an all-out love in, though, and they were some underlying examples of unruly behaviour amongst the 40,000-strong crowd. West Brom fans had taken rather unkindly to going two-nil down after having a man unfairly sent-off and a handful took to ripping some seats out of the away end and firing them onto the crowd below. There were also reports of players being jostled and harried after the pitch invasion, too, but the majority of the behaviour seemed to be good natured with Villa captain Fabian Delph caught bouncing blissfully with the home supporters afterwards.

The major issue taken is the pitch invasion before the final whistle and the safety issues that go hand-in-hand with that. It was wrong. Of course it was. Invading the field of play whilst the game is still going on should never be accepted – the majority of the ground booed them – and Villa must face the repercussions of allowing that to happen but the FA must also share the blame.

The decision to hold such a big local derby at 5:30 on a Saturday evening was naïve and foolish in the extreme. Supporters on both sides would have been drinking from early in the day right through to kick-off. Having already faced-off earlier in the week, emotions were already running high amongst both sets of fans.

New manager Tim Sherwood has whipped up a storm amongst the Villa support with his bluster and bravado and this could possibly have also contributed to the feverish atmosphere at the ground before, during and after the game, but to suggest yesterday’s events are a throwback to the 80s and a violent past is a fabrication and hugely irresponsible.

No one was killed yesterday. In fact, no one was even hospitalised. To indirectly compare it to or even mention it in the same breath as previous football tragedies is hugely unfair.

A large portion of the media has painted modern English football atmospheres as sanitised, veritable libraries; one good old-fashioned pitch invasion later – in which no one was injured – and we’re back to “the dark days of football” – it all smacks of hypocrisy. Had the same occurred at Valley Parade yesterday after another unlikely Bradford giant-killing, the message portrayed afterwards would have been the ‘magic of the cup’, no doubt.

With an FA investigation due to get underway shortly, one would hope the moral outrage subsides and those in power, and the mainstream media, realise that this was little more than an over-zealous display of pent-up emotions. Very little harm, very little foul.