OPINION: Are the days of the dark ages starting to slowly creep back into the beautiful game?

Pic by Matt Williams

by Callum Ellis

FOOTBALL was under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons over the weekend as the beautiful game was once again overshadowed by those in the stands.

Three supporters forced their way onto the field of play, and in one incident, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was left grounded following an attack from a Birmingham City fan at St Andrew’s.

Rangers skipper James Tavernier was also confronted by a spectator on Friday evening, while Manchester United’s Chris Smalling was shoved at the Emirates.

The incidents sparked debate across social media with current and former professionals giving their views on the procedures that need to be implemented to punish the mindless few.

What can be done to prevent it?

That question lays with the governing bodies. In a rushed statement, the Football Association ‘condoned’ the incident that unfolded in the West Midlands, before quickly rectifying their error.

Birmingham City and Hibernian have issued lifetime bans to the respective supporters who were involved in the ugly scenes. While Arsenal statement read: “The individual will also be banned from Arsenal matches home and away.”

With the race for the title and survival in the Premier League set to go right down to the wire, docking points from clubs would not be highly thought of.

Back to the dark ages?

Let’s certainly hope not. Football has come a long way since the dark ages in combatting hooliganism.

But pitch invasions are nothing new – they have been around since the early days.

Playing at the top level, Grealish, Tavernier and Smalling have earned the right to go about their business without supporters preventing them from doing so. They take enough verbal abuse from their presence in the stands.

It is about time football made a stand against these incidents; punishments simply have to become heavier.

Will we have to wait until something serious takes place before the authorities take action against it? Let us hope not.