Some matches don’t have an obvious talking point. This match was not one of those matches. Of course, as a match did occur I’ll talk about that first, before moving on to the rather huge elephant in the room.
Two wonder strikes meant that honours were even on the pitch (if not off it) in this FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round match. A replay is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Shay, with the Chester B&Q ordering in extra safety helmets especially for the trip. The match was also even in the ‘ridiculous red card’ department, making it one of the more memorable matches in recent years at the Exacta/Deva Stadium. Here’s some stuff that occurred to me during and after the match.
We need some. We ended the match with one recognised defender on the pitch. Baynes, McGinn and Linwood are all doubtful for Tuesday, Denson is cup-tied, but apparently Horan’s ban won’t kick in for a little while meaning we’ll have Clancy at left back and probably Hankin at right back. I’m worried. All the midfielders did well filling in, but I don’t like any player playing 90 minutes completely out of position against a quality side like Halifax.
Possibly the worst referee ever seen at the Exacta. He was inconsistent with the fouls he gave, bias towards Halifax (I use that term very carefully) and gave out two of the stupidest red cards ever seen. Neither Horan or the Halifax striker deserved to be sent off for what was essentially a rather passionate embrace. Paul Linwood tweeted that the referee’s assessor was in the crowd, so expect that berk to be refereeing in the Premier League shortly where he can’t do any harm.
Bloody hellfire they were good weren’t they? Sarcevic’s was wonderfully placed over Glennon whilst the Halifax player’s strike was drilled pin-point into the top corner. Both wonderful examples of how to shoot from long range. If I had to choose a favourite I’d have to go for the Halifax goal (sorry Sarc!)
4) The elephant in the room
Firstly, I want to point this out: VIOLENCE AT FOOTBALL MATCHES IS WRONG. Unfortunately though, it did happen so what should we make of it?
Well, clearly it was a small contingent from Halifax who were extremely intent on causing trouble. After five minutes of the match a group of about 6 people crossed the pitch (an arrestable offense) towards the Harry McNally terrace and proceeded to gesture and shout at the Chester fans, before trying to punch those closest to them. From where I was it looked like there were no police present at that point and that there were not many stewards in the area. After a minute or two the Halifax fans were herded back towards their end and let back into the away stand.
Clearly, this should not have happened. All of the Halifax fans who entered the pitch did so in order to cause trouble and should have been arrested for the arrestable offense of entering the field of play (I’m not sure about the proper title). However, there did not seem to be any police in the ground and the growing number of stewards in the area probably did not want to disrupt the match any more. Hopefully there is enough video evidence to identify and prosecute those involved.
The second incident happened very close to where I was sitting in the East Stand. After about half an hour of the match had been played there was a commotion to my left and it appeared that there was a fight in the stand. There were two men who subsequently jumped over the wall onto the pitch and continued to goad the Chester fans in H Block. I am completely certain that these two men were Halifax fans who had either snuck round the stadium to cause trouble, or who had originally entered the ground via the South Stand or East Stand and decided to cause trouble after a while. The two men appeared to be arrested and were escorted to the holding bay in the East Stand (which is next to the food kiosk and where fans are let out from at full time). One of the men later ran back up from the holding bay and attempted to start a fight, but was quickly subdued.
For this second incident there were police in the ground and the scuffle was quickly separated. However, the two men involved should have been taken straight to the police station. Again I hope there is enough video evidence to prosecute the two men.
As you can see, both of the incidents were started by a contingent from Halifax. The board of Halifax did warn us before the game that they had a trouble making few, but in my view there was not enough done to stop the violence before it happened. There should have been more stewards in between the two sets of fans at kick-off and there should have also been a visible police presence at kick-off too. Unfortunately though, there is sometimes little that can be done to stop really determined people from this kind of behaviour. For example, I doubt that any of the measures I recommend would have stopped the second incident from occurring (although perhaps it wouldn’t have happened if the first incident didn’t happen).
What both clubs, and indeed football in general, can do is try to get to the bottom of this kind of behaviour. There’s no use in labeling these people as ‘mindless’ or saying that they aren’t really fans, because that only serves to de-humanise them, to make it seem as though they aren’t a problem that anything can be done about. Short term these people will have to be banned and there will have to be a (expensive of course) police presence at Halifax matches. What needs to be looked at in the long term however, are the socioeconomic reasons for their behaviour, for their mindset that violence in football is ok. Only once we understand why people do this kind of thing will the footballing community be able to combat it properly. This combat however, should be in productive ways. Inevitably the reasons for this behaviour will lie in a lack of opportunities, the person’s up bringing and so on. Football is not to blame for these problems, but it is left to deal with them. The government needs to take these problems as social problems, not football problems, and apply itself to changing these people’s attitudes. Football can help. That’s the whole reason that most clubs have a community section, but it cannot be left to deal with it alone, or be left to foot an ever increasing policing bill (which will only lead to resentment amongst clubs).
That concludes the blog for today. I hope my rather rushed points make sense. I am happy to expand and illuminate them below, just comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, remember that there was a football match on today, and it wasn’t too bad either. We have another tough game on Tuesday, as Chester fans we should concentrate on showing Halifax exactly how to support their football team: peace, love and out-singing the opposition!