This past week has seen a return of the ugly side of football witnessed regularly in the 70s, 80s and sporadically in the early 90s.
I am talking of course about football-related violence. Clashes between rival fans in two major cup finals within a week has shown that this appears to be a returning trend.
Sadly, last Wednesday’s Europa League final between Liverpool and Sevilla was marred by clashes between fans prior to kick-off inside Basel’s St Jakob-Park .
Clashes were clearly visible in one end of the ground where both Liverpool and Sevilla supporters seem to have been congregated without segregation. This lack of segregation enabled Sevilla fans to advance towards their Liverpudlian counterparts and throw a number of missiles such as bottles and plastic cups, inciting a reaction from Liverpool fans.
UEFA has since charged both clubs with a number of offences throughout the game relating to fan control.
However, I feel that UEFA themselves must shoulder some of the blame for these incidences, as in this case they clearly failed to provide adequate segregation of fans which is a requirement within their own rules for the Europa League and Champions League competitions.
Furthermore, I feel that they have charged Liverpool based on history more than the actual events, as video evidence clearly showsLiverpool fans being hit with a number of objects before a single punch or retaliation of any kind happened from within the Liverpool contingent.
However due to the common knowledge of Liverpool’s history with regards to unsavoury and tragic incidents they are often condemned to a higher extent than would be the case with other clubs around Europe.
It is my feeling that the charge Liverpool recieved should be less than that of Sevilla, whose fans instigated violence without physical provocation of any sort prior to the kick-off.
The second competition to fall foul of crowd trouble was the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park between Rangers and Hibernian. At the end of the game, Hibernian fans invaded the pitch in apparent jubilation at the club finally lifting the Scottish cup after 114 years of waiting.
These scenes were to turn sour however when a sizeable number of the Hibs fans who had invaded the pitch began to attack Rangers staff and players as they attempted to exit the field.
During the ensuing pitch invasion, the Edinburgh club’s fans also destroyed one of the goals and caused considerable damage to the Hampden turf in order to take a potential souvenir.
Rangers fans also invaded the pitch, but only after video footage shows Hibs fans noticeably trying to advance towards a Rangers stand. On inspection of the video it also appears that the majority of the trouble stems from the Green and White club’s supporters, with only a minority of Rangers fans even entering the field of play.
Why then have Rangers been classed as the potential instigators and the club more at fault for the trouble that occurred at this weekend’s game?
I believe the reason to be similar to Liverpool. Rangers’ history is a somewhat chequered one, with clashes with Glasgow rivals Celtic a regular occurrence down the years.
However, I believe that like Liverpool, their charges should be considerably less if not completely quashed. While violence is never justifiable and the minority of Rangers fans should be punished individually, their anger is somewhat understandable as the club to a core demographic of fans is like a family.
This means that the attack on players and coaching staff by the Hibs fans could almost be taken as an attack on their family by some Rangers fans.
I feel that the Scottish Football Association and UEFA predetermine the punishments somewhat to fit clubs’ past misdemeanours, as opposed to their actual severity within the footballing context and disruption caused by the events from an individual club.