In recent weeks, football fans have come in for a bit of a kicking in the media in the wake of a number of incidents.
It started a month ago with the man who ran onto the pitch at Birmingham and assaulted Jack Grealish, and since then, incidents involving fans have become front page news. In recent times we have seen more incidents of objects being thrown at players, and sadly more and more stories about racism aimed at players.
I’m not going to sit here and say any of this is acceptable, and the fact that incidents such of these have risen so much this year is a disgrace, and football needs to do more to deal with this. However, when it comes to things like this being reported in the press, football is a very easy target.
If you put it in simple terms, it’s a group of, mainly, middle aged white men gathering every Saturday, travelling around the country, and having a bit too much to drink. Of course, it’s not going to look good if there’s an incident, but that doesn’t mean we should declare that every one of the thousands of people who goes to a football match is a terrible person.
In reality, football has become representative of how the whole country has changed over the last two or three years. As a nation, we have become much less accepting of other people, fuelled of course by the disastrous Brexit, and all the fall out around that. As a whole nation we have begun to accept comments and opinions that are unacceptable, and if he had any form of self-respect we wouldn’t allow them.
Take, for example, Boris Johnson’s comments on women who wear burkas. Incredibly offensive, published in a national newspaper, and then defended by far too many people. As a country, we have subconsciously let people get away with more and more, and it has now become the norm. So, let’s not try and take the moral high ground when we’ve allowed this to happen.
Football must still do more, that goes without saying. Punishments must be higher for those responsible for these incidents. We must also stop referring to these people as “so-called football fans”. This allows football to wipe our hands of them, and almost stay oblivious to what is, in reality, our fault.
But the wider picture is that this is a problem for the whole of society, and not just football.