SO, just as Yahoo!, MSN and various online news outlets were reporting that the game on Sunday had gone off without a hitch – off the pitch, anyway – Sky Sports News were already showing the clips they’d recorded at the end of the game, once the home stands had emptied.
There were those chants of ‘United’ over You’ll Never Walk Alone, prior to kick off (which even the Sky commentators chose to ignore) but what Sky showed later was truly disgusting.
The United fans, being kept back following the full time whistle, thought they were being clever in waiting until (they thought) the cameras had stopped rolling before they reverted to type. Unfortunately, either via serendipity or plain slyness, Sky Sports caught the whole thing on camera and recorded every word.
So when they showed these clips a couple of hours after the game, events didn’t seem quite so ‘hitch-free’ and just adding the subtitles made things even worse.
Apparently, the claims were that a couple of Liverpool fans mimed ‘aeroplanes’ across the away end and this was what had incited those fans to react with the despicable songs they responded with. But, unless we’re going to resort to playground justice, that just doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid; two wrongs do not make a right. We could also put one of the FA’s own rules in to practice in this situation as well, you know, the one about how retaliation is deemed worse than the original offence? But of course, the FA doesn’t like to have their rules twisted back on them, so no doubt no action will be taken.
As far as I’m concerned, any fan that abuses the dead, or even simply sings deeply abusive and disrespectful songs, should be banned for life. No excuses. I don’t care whether you were drunk, coked up or just got carried away in the occasion because it shouldn’t be something to applaud when a fellow human shows you an ounce of decency and respect in a situation like Sunday. Particularly not when a number of family members of the 96 were in attendance during the match.
Far be it for me to pretend I know how difficult it is to pick somebody out from forty-thousand people and lip-read what they’ve said, or to get witnesses or stewards and police to give reports, but I would’ve thought that picking out a few hundred people wouldn’t be any harder than picking out just one? Sure, it’d cost more and perhaps require a little more man-power but is it not worth it to make football grounds across the country more safe and much more savoury for youngsters, families and, well… those of us that want to enjoy the game without having some fat, drunk, angry moron spit and scream his abuse at the back of our collective heads?
You will never totally drain all of the vitriolic poison out of the game, there are just too many years of history and intense rivalry (or hatred) to do that. But taking heavy sanctions against clubs and their fans when the abuse is often and extreme should be a real possibility. We should want to kick all kinds of abuse out of the game, not just specific ones and the only way to do that is to clamp down hard and fast, with life-time bans, hefty club fines and perhaps even threats of points deductions if clubs cannot get a handle of their own fans.
I’m not asking for football grounds to become neutered and Emirates-like in their library qualities but fans should not be afraid to visit them and hate and abuse should not exclude the real fans. The authorities need to take a real stand against this, and now.