Chris Beesley says it’s time for Liverpool and Everton supporters to unite in their condemnation of random pitch invaders who are undermining the respective clubs’ players and jeopardising their safety.
Across the region, Merseyside is always divided on Derby day. But one thing the vast majority of fans could agree upon at Anfield when Liverpool played Everton in the Women’s Super League was their condemnation of random pitch invaders, whose mindless actions are causing embarrassment to the city and possible serious repercussions.
A record crowd for the fixture of 27,574 witnessed the game, a large number of which were families with children, yet while those youngsters in the stands were on the one hand being presented with the role models that are the players of Liverpool and Everton’s women’s teams, they simultaneously had to witness the ridiculous antics of a small but growing number of idiots who ruin such occasions by encroaching upon the playing area.
This has been an ongoing problem at both Liverpool and Everton matches for a while now and while the clowning around at first brought the odd titter from observers, those who might have previously cracked a smile soon realised the copycat behaviour is no laughing matter and needs to be brought to an abrupt halt. The Anfield crowd booed the pitch invaders and then cheered when they were tackled to the ground and removed, while the exasperated players waved their arms in disbelief and disgust as the intruders undermined their game and disrupted their rhythm and focus.
These pathetic individuals are not loveable rogues but rather flagrant law breakers whose over-inflated egos and desire to be the centre of attention seriously compromises the safety of those who are supposed to be on the pitch. Like all generations have done repeatedly throughout history, we could try and blame it on teenagers and say it’s because they’re all engrossed with social media as platforms like TikTok and Instagram promote the idea that everyone can be a star, encouraging them to post videos and photographs online and share them with the world, but at least one of those who took to the turf was a fully-grown man with a beard.
We don’t want to be hysterical and, from Eddie Cavanagh’s iconic Wembley appearance at the 1966 FA Cup final to the emotional outpouring of relief when Everton avoided what would have been a first relegation in 71 years last May, there has always been a tolerance for good-natured incursions onto the field at select times of joy, but on this occasion there seems no rhyme or reason why they jumped over the hoardings when they did, except because they could.
The Anfield stewards did their best to deal with the pitch invaders as quickly as possible – particularly the one who produced an effective rugby tackle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in St Helens’ Super League Grand Final victory over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford the previous night – but they’re having to go above and beyond their duties to deal with these cranks.
None of us are to know what is going through the mind of an individual when they carry out such acts, and how can any of us guarantee that someone who has decided to come on to a football pitch where they shouldn’t be in a high-profile, professional match, isn’t going to be a threat to the players? Unfortunately in the world we live in, we can never make that promise.
Only this week, Premier League clubs voted unanimously for tougher sanctions on fans who invade pitches or light smoke bombs, and they will be banned automatically for at least one year for anti-social actions with punishments also being extended to parents or guardians of children. Who is to say that the game’s authorities won’t make a show of either Liverpool or Everton in the future and take actions against the clubs, such as partial stadium closures or even points deductions?
It’s understood that those within Anfield and Goodison Park’s corridors of power do express serious concerns that potential punishments of that nature cannot be ruled out going forward. Just as Scousers stuck together in the past at times when the city was being undermined by outsiders, so a united front needs to be displayed here from Blues and Reds in terms of condemning the actions of those who are ruining the game we all love.