People Are On The Pitch - And It's Shameful

Rule 20(b) Section E of the FA rules state that no spectators or unauthorised persons are permitted to encroach onto the pitch area (save for reasons of crowd safety), or to throw missiles, bottles or other potentially harmful or dangerous objects at or on to the pitch. Maybe there should be a caveat added - except for the last matches of the season.

Understandably, emotions run higher when the business end of the season comes around, and the entire term's work can come down to that final 90 minutes. It can be make or break. It can be the difference between relegation and promotion, and for some it could be the difference between administration and financial security.

The actions of some supporters though, despite what's at stake, has been shameful - and a throwback to the bad old days. Rules go out of the window, and people see it as an excuse to cause a little trouble. Even at the game that I was at on Sunday, between QPR and Newcastle - where there was absolutely nothing to play for - fans tried, and many succeeded, getting on the pitch.

And the scenes at Hillsborough and Kenilworth Road were unnecessary throwbacks to a bygone era, and will no doubt be addressed by the FA, although thus far they have been extremely quiet on the subject, only stating that they have opened an inquiry into both incidents.

It goes deeper than these two incidents though. There were spectators on the pitch at Grimsby, after their victory against Barnet, at Blackpool after they got in the play-offs, and at both Norwich and Rochdale when they were promoted. Pitch invasions are being organised on Facebook and on other social websites, and the end of season is seen as an excuse for it. It's last day of school syndrome, and it's time the authorities took it more seriously. Pitch invasions are very rarely purely celebratory. Victorious supporters end up goading the losers, looking for a reaction out of them - and often getting it.

So, what's the answer, and why is it back in vogue ? Football clubs and the authorities have to handle the issue with more conviction. Bedfordshire police are looking to hand out 100 banning orders. This should be a deterrent, but does it go far enough ? How about bringing back fencing ?

And all those who feel football has rid itself of its hooligan problem need to open their eyes. It's still there, bubbling under the surface, and the authorities need to take a stand - before it becomes too late.

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