The Aston Villa Supporters Trust is astounded by the fine that the FA have imposed on the club following the events of our FA Cup Quarter Final victory over West Bromwich Albion. Whilst we do acknowledge that it is never correct to encroach on the pitch, particularly whilst the game is ongoing, we cannot help but feel that the club have been made scapegoats on the back of some appalling attempts, in both the written and visual media, to create a story that never was.
The pitch invasion was good natured and a spontaneous outpouring of joy from supporters who have been starved for too long of something to celebrate. But the narrative was immediately set by the BBC commentary team suggesting it was some kind of throwback to the hooliganism that blighted the game in the 70’s and 80’s. Phil McNulty then wrote something even more inflammatory on their website and various newspapers also tried to add fuel to the fire. You could have been forgiven for thinking that something akin to an inner city riot of the 1980’s had unfolded from the way the matter was reported.
We await with interest the fine to be imposed on West Bromwich Albion for their part in the events of that day. If £200,000 is the going rate for a pitch invasion then it will be interesting to see how the FA view that in comparison to criminal damage, injuries caused to both our and their own supporters by those throwing seats and some players attempting to incite those who went on to the pitch at the end, which could have resulted in a very different aftermath.
The fact that such a heavy fine has been levied by the FA is very disappointing. At a time when clubs are playing reserve teams in the FA Cup to safeguard their Premier League status, and the world’s greatest cup competition struggles for relevance, it seems extraordinary that a club bringing that much needed passion to the competition should be treated in such a way. This is of course also at a time where we are being subjected to a dismal allocation of tickets for the FA Cup Final (nearly half taken up by Club Wembley and the “Football Family”), where prices have doubled from that which were being charged for the Semi Final and where our supporters are having to find up to £110 for a ticket to take a child with them.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the FA have set themselves up to be the arbiter of when a pitch invasion is “good” or “bad”. When Warrington fans went on to the pitch to celebrate a giant killing in the First Round it was “the magic of the cup”. There was great talk just the other week of the fabulous scenes after Bournemouth fans poured out over the playing surface to celebrate their promotion to the top flight for the first time. These are just two examples of many we could cite from this season alone. Yet it seems unlikely that any action will be taken in respect of those clubs and nor should it.
The FA say they want to re-engage with football supporters and give credence to their claims that the FA Cup is the greatest competition there is. We brought that passion to it. And were disproportionately punished as a result.