Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFootball is in need of a change - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Football is in need of a change - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Football is in need of a change


Football needs to make changes off the field, but let’s hope it doesn’t look to the 1980s for inspiration.

As English football comes to terms with the appalling scenes at Wembley on Saturday, everyone who saw that pocket of thugs put a dent in Millwall’s improving reputation has become an instant critic.

‘Sure’, says Joe Public, ‘the idiots who fought each other are to blame, but where were the stewards, where were the police?’ Stewards are often the first to be criticised at a football match for their over-zealous adherence to procedure with regards to persistent standing, or their stance against fans taking in their own cans of drink. For many people, their passivity towards the brawl in Wembley’s lower-tier on Saturday was a shame. Yet, think about it. Stewards are there to stop isolated incidents; they are certainly not trained to deal with a scrap of over forty people. Why would any one of them try to contend with a flurry of arms, legs and Stone Island jackets for £6.19 p/h?

The police do not have this excuse as such, as they have been trained for brawl situations, and their job is to keep the peace under any circumstances. However, while they are on alert for disturbances, the police would never cater for violence among a group of men supposedly supporting the same team. Response times have been criticised, but the police are dotted around towards the end of a game, preparing to keep both sets of exiting fans safe from trouble.

The only way for the police to have dealt with the violence sooner would have been to have extremely tight security around the venue, having an almost choking presence of authority. But, in the week in which the nation remembered the controversial Margaret Thatcher, would anyone really want to return to the days where football fans were all tarred with the same brush, penned in like animals, all to be treated by the police as potential thugs? No, and especially not at a major cup semi-final between two sides with zero historic rivalry.

So, we’ve looked backwards through the eyes of Mr. Outraged, what are the solutions people have offered? What needs to happen to Millwall as a repercussion of this incident?

‘Demote them’, ‘ban them from the cup’, ‘make them play behind closed doors’ – all punishments fans on BBC’s 606 phone-in suggested for Millwall FC as both a form of retribution and a deterrent to future skirmishes in future games. However, as many other people across the internet, on television and on radio have noted, those punishments would be too harsh for the crime. Why should an entire club suffer as a result of the drunken, juvenile actions of a handful of people?

Millwall have a long-standing reputation of being a tough club with a tough fanbase, stemming from the actions of the infamous ‘Bushwackers’ firm in the 1980s, but in recent years, the club have striven to shake off this unwanted tag with a wealth of community initiatives. For example, while almost every professional club in the country has some sort of ‘football in the community’ scheme, Millwall have recently displayed their support against the governmental plan to close down the A+E department at the local Lewisham hospital, encouraging fans to join community protests against the cutback and allowing hospital staff and beneficiaries to promote around the ground on match-day.

Clearly, the people in charge of the club are trying to convey the ‘right’ image across to its public, but unfortunately, the huge positives are vastly outweighed by the tiny negatives in the public eye. This recent incident of violence, no matter how small it may have been, will simply perpetuate the negative stereotype of Millwall FC that people across the country share. However, I implore you to go on to any Millwall message board. The people responsible for the violence on Saturday are not representative of their club, and the overwhelming majority of real Millwall fans have shunned those idiots besmirching the club’s name, those fools intent on dragging football back thirty years.

Hopefully, this will be an isolated incident, as football does not need this bad press. The game has progressed. SaStefan, Hdly, my most pressing concern is that as a result of a few more skirmishes such as this one, policing staff may revert back to the troubles of the 1980s, treating all football fans like trouble-causing louts simply because of the actions of a miniscule minority.

Stefan. H