There were some tremendous games at all levels of British football on Sunday. Cardiff and Swansea battled out a thrilling 2-2 draw. Luton gave the Football League a poke in the eye by winning a wonderful Johnstone Paint Trophy Final 3-2 against Scunthorpe. And finally we had the gasp-inducing 3-2 stormer at Old Trafford.
It was just a shame that fan behaviour cast such a pall over the whole day.
Like many fans I was disgusted with the throwing of the coin that injured referee Mike Dean in the Welsh derby, but I’ve been just as concerned by the reaction of key figures from both clubs.
Peter Ridsdale, Cardiff Chairman, said:
“We’ve now identified an individual who threw a coin, we believe it’s the individual whose coin hit the referee… assuming it’s the right individual he will be banned for life.”
Well, that’s good to know. But it wasn’t ‘an individual’ it was many individuals. The few seconds of footage surrounding the moment Mike Dean was hit clearly shows several items landing near the referee, while Swansea captain Garry Monk has claimed objects were being thrown throughout the match. Cardiff fans have commednably been more open than Ridsdale, speaking of witnessing a number of individuals throwing objects onto the pitch ranging from coins to lighters.
Does Ridsdale think that getting rid of this one person somehow solves the problem? Moreover, was this individual more guilty for hitting the referee than anyone else who tried but missed?
Cardiff manager Dave Jones said:
“I hope the club don’t suffer serious repurcussions as it was only one person and there were 20,000 people here… It’s ridiculous as I thought those days were long gone.”
Only one person, Dave? Really? And you thought those days were long gone? Good job the police didn’t share your view or they might not have sent those 450 officers to Ninian Park to try and minimise trouble between the fans.
What weasel words by both of these people. I would expect more of Jones in particular, but perhaps he is just trying to protect the club. If that is the case then he has been shown up by the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust who condemned the ‘mindless idiots’ (notice the plural) and for those Cardiff fans who stood up and pointed out the offenders at the time. If only club officials were so forthright.
It is unfair that the whole club should be tainted by this, but football must not continually attempt to hide the truth. Whenever there is violence at a game we are fed the same line about how “these people are not football fans” – well, who are they then? There can be no doubt things have moved forward over the last 20 years, but problems still exist. Every club still has their trouble-makers.
In the midst of all this you might expect Swansea to act with quiet dignity, but manager Roberto Martinez, a good, honest, likable man, a successful coach and a very decent TV pundit, has waded in with some ill-advised comments of his own:
“You don’t want to see coin throwing incidents like that but looking at the overall performance of the referee maybe he was affected by it… you work all week not to get emotional performances from your players and you drop two points because of an emotional decision by a referee.”
In one sense, Martinez is right – Cardiff’s late penalty for the equaliser was probably the wrong decision – but to show such callous disregard of the referee’s health beggars belief. He had been hit in the end, no more than a few centimetres from his eye, yet made little fuss and carried on refereeing the game – on the whole very well. It seems incredible that rather than blaming the fan for his actions he suggests that the referee failed to deal with the situation adequately. I wonder what Martinez’s reaction might have been had his goalkeeper received a blow to the head. Would he have publicly blamed him for dropping a cross and for becoming too emotional?
The fallout from this will undoubtedly continue for some time, but what sort of punishment should be meted out by the Football Association? Ridsdale has a point in that it seems unfair to punish Dave Jones’ team for the actions of some of the fans. Cardiff have improved the image of the club in recent years and so a fine or a points deduction seems ill-fitting.
Perhaps the FA must leave it to the club to identify as many of these coin-throwers as possible and have them thrown out of all football grounds for good, but while Ridsdale continues to suggest it was only one person, this is not a problem that will disappear any time soon. In the meantime, football officials need to start being a little more honest when it comes to assessing the behaviour of some fans.