Netting is not the answer

There are two types of people who attend football matches: supporters and mindless idiots. Both types are often mixed in with each other in the crowd. However, just because some people decide to behave like animals does not mean everyone should be treated as such.

Incidents during the recent Manchester derby have highlighted the need to assess players’ security. Whilst celebrating Robin van Persie’s injury time winner at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was struck by a coin thrown from the home crowd. The coin came extremely close to contact with Ferdinand’s eye, which would have caused him serious injury and could even have left him blind. The act has been condemned by both clubs and the FA, but the sight of a player left bleeding after an attack from a fan is not something which will be forgotten quickly.

The threat to Ferdinand increased when a 21-year-old man ran onto the pitch to confront him. Luckily for Ferdinand, as well as the intruder himself, he was stopped by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart. An unusual and unwanted image of the game, Hart could be seen grabbing hold of one of his club’s own fans and shouting at him to prevent him getting himself into more trouble. It is not right that one person in one moment of madness should be able to tarnish the reputation of an entire football club, but unfortunately it happens frequently.

The call for netting to protect players arrived almost as soon as the final whistle sounded. These sorts of precautions can be seen in other parts of the world, but even the managers involved in the heated Manchester derby talked down their implementation in England. Rivals in the fight for the Premier League title, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini both agreed that the idea was unnecessary and that football is much better without a physical barrier between fans and players.

As the home of football, England should not have to introduce such restrictions. Football is supposed to be moving forwards and this would be nothing but a backwards step. Supporters must be allowed to enjoy the beautiful game the way it is supposed to be and cannot be trapped in cages for a crime they did not commit.

If people are to be locked up, it should be the mindless idiots. Behind bars of a different kind, far away from the ground.