Why it is time tackle the pitch invaders - Sue Smith on Football

This week we saw a pitch invader at a women’s Champions League game, an FA investigation after Leeds United fans appeared to throw objects at two Brentford players, and sporting director Victor Orta having to be held back from confronting an Elland Road supporter.

Everybody – players, fans and administrators – need to do more to stop these things happening because incidents like this feel as if they are becoming more common.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Aberdeen midfielder Funso Ojo was pushed by a home fan and ended up being sent off for his reaction, and there has been a worrying rise in crowd trouble in Ligue 1 this season.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Some people seem to think because footballers are paid a lot of money they should be able – metaphorically and literally – to take it. But if you are going to give out a lot of stick, be prepared to take it back. That said, players have a responsibility not to incite crowds either.

Shirty: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was asked for his shirt during match.Shirty: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was asked for his shirt during match.
Shirty: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was asked for his shirt during match.

It worried me to see a fan run on during Chelsea women’s game against Juventus. People running onto the pitch during a game is frustrating for everyone else – it is boring and spoils the game – but the fear is it could be much worse than that.

Women’s football has had the odd pitch invader in the past, but generally just streakers during cup finals looking for a bit of attention. This was a Champions League game but not live on Sky or terrestrial TV.

He apparently wanted a selfie with one of the players, but the fact he approached them during a game and was able to do it was worrying. As the profile of the women’s game gets higher, we need to be aware of it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whether there are not enough stewards for financial reasons I do not know, but you need enough to cope with someone running on.

Last month we saw an 11-year-old invade the pitch in Dublin to try and get Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt after Portugal’s game there. She was fined 3,000 euros, but that was quickly dropped after the FAI saw the public reaction.

At the time it was quite cute and Ronaldo gave young Addison his shirt as she asked but you can imagine the dads of other young kids encouraging them to do the same in future matches.

At first on Wednesday, no steward ran on to stop the invader who was on a long time before Chelsea’s Sam Kerr barged him over. It should not have been left to her.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My initial thought was “Well done!” It would be your first instinct when someone spoiled a game you were trying to play. But what if he had got up and punched her or had something in his pocket?

My mind went back to the Birmingham City fan who came on and threw a punch at Jack Grealish two years ago.

Men running onto the pitch are bound to be stronger than female players and able to overpower them if they get into a confrontation so while it is not acceptable in the men’s game either, I find it even more concerning in women’s football.

If all he wanted was a selfie with one of the players, he only needed to wait until the end because female footballers spend ages doing things like that at the end of games, and are always happy to speak to the fans too.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Sunday, Orta was probably frustrated at getting stick all throughout a difficult game at home to Brentford and when Leeds equalised, he bit, trying to confront his critics until he was held back.

You can understand it because we are all human and we can only take so much.

As a former Leeds player, I liked seeing that passion from Orta. It shows he loves my old club and what he does and is clearly invested in it.

Likewise, if I was a manager I would be telling my players just to celebrate with their own team and fans because if you run over to the opposition supporters, there is a risk you might end up getting injured and having to come off.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Just because the Brentford players ran over to Leeds’s fans when they went 2-1 up does not mean Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo deserved to have things thrown at them, but it is always the risk. It is no excuse – boo them if you want, but that crossed the line.

Football is an emotional game and that must never change but sometimes we all have to keep ourselves in check.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.