Every time crowd trouble breaks out involving an English team as it did this week when Manchester United fans visited Barnsley in the Carling Cup, we get the “return to the dark ages” pieces that suggest these are nostalgic occasions akin to 70s night at your local disco.
Oliver Kay has an interesting piece in The Times on it that pinpoints when and where this trouble is tending to break out — rather than seeing them as random accidents in the time-space continuum — pointing out that there is a particular trend towards trouble on away days for big clubs in smaller towns in the Carling Cup as “the competition is, by virtue of low ticket prices and a reduced uptake from the more established support, accessible to troublemakers.”
Kay says that Manchester United fans as a whole are, as seen at Old Trafford, amongst the best-behaved in the country; but that on away days, “United fans behave differently” and that they lead the nation in arrests (though he fails to point out it’s highly likely more of them travel than for any other club).
Thousands of them travelled to Barnsley this Tuesday, and Kay makes it clear policing was not at its best, reporting that police “reacted hysterically by trying to confiscate a banner that stated “United>England” and that they acted “hostilely. . .herding them to a “compound” nearby before the match”.
Kay asks if heavy-handed policing is really the answer, whilst not letting United supporters off the hook for their own culpability as multiple arrests were made and with thousands of pounds of property damage. The club themselves branded the trouble-makers as “thugs”, and the authorities ought to rethink how they handle these away days. Though I have to say it was amusing to read this account of the trouble: “The fans jumped over the counter and in one case kicked the door in, and started attacking the staff with tomato sauce.”
Not exactly the ICF, are they?
- The MLS playoffs get underway today, and there’s plenty of deserved praise for the Seattle Sounders ahead of their match-up with the Houston Dynamo tonight, though Grahame Jones in the LA Times is rather generous in this eulogising piece: “One more victory would have given Seattle the best mark in MLS.”, he writes, ignoring that Columbus took their foot off the gas as they had that sewn up even before their final game (a defeat) against New England. He also says Seattle have “Created several new MLS traditions”, but only provides Drew Carey’s marching band as an example, a tradition they can keep in Seattle. Seattle have done great, but lets remember they’ll need to win the league to match the best ever expansion performance –the Chicago Fire’s double in 1998. You just knew I had to mention that, didn’t you?
- As Rangers’ crisis deepens, supporters’ groups are threatening to boycott Lloyds bank, who in many ways now essentially control the club.
- It looks as if the end-game has been reached in America’s lower-league power struggle, with the two Canadian teams who contested the USL-1 final just earlier this month set to leave the league.
- Google Maps has launched in South Africa, just in time for you to plan your trip to World Cup 2010.
- FIFA are investigating Diego Maradona’s remarkable press conference tirade following Argentina’s qualification to the World Cup, with his lawyer defending his behaviour because of his “state of violent emotion”. This sounds like an excuse we should all start using.
- John Duerden at Goal previews the Asian Champions League final, flying as ever under my radar, unfortunately.
- Wait, Phil Brown still has a job?
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.