In the 1970s and 1980s football matches could often become no go areas owing to hooliganism, a practice which led to English clubs being banned from European competition.
Visit any stadium in England now and one will see large numbers of families and female supporters in the stands, audiences that just a few years ago would have refrained from attending matches. This new safer environment has been called into question in recent months. And in the last few weeks, as the season ends in the English game, we have seen more examples of loutish behaviour.
Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp and Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira were both involved in altercations with pitch invading fans and, as supporters of Manchester City invaded the pitch to celebrate the club’s Premier League title victory, Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen became the latest player to suffer an alleged on-pitch assault.
It is a side of football we thought we had relegated to history. The fault for these incidents lies not with the police or match day stewards who found themselves helplessly outnumbered.
Nor can we blame clubs who have moved heaven and earth to make grounds safer and have taken action to ban supporters who engage in violence. The culpability lies with individual supporters who must understand that supporting a club’s success or failure should not impinge the safety of players.