Over recent weeks there appears to have been an increase in crowd related incidents at football matches. The most recent case to make the headlines took place during the Midlands derby between Birmingham City and Aston Villa.
A Blues fan leapt from his seat, ran on to the pitch and attacked Jack Grealish. Irrespective of what you think of the Villa skipper, this behaviour is totally unacceptable, but thankfully the culprit has been arrested and charged and will no longer be able to attend matches.
This incident overshadowed a fan entering the field of play at The Emirates Stadium, but despite it not receiving the same attention I am sure the person concerned has been dealt a severe penalty.
There have also been reports of objects, such as coins and bottles, being thrown from the stands and hitting players, as well as team management. These could have resulted in serious injury, but thankfully, as far as I know any injuries were minor.
Assaults are not only physical in nature, but also verbal. Racial chants or actions are equally as unacceptable as those of a violent kind. The player or official who this kind of behaviour is aimed at may not be harmed physically, but can be seriously hurt emotionally, which can go undetected.
Although these kinds of behaviour should not be tolerated, the general behaviour of football supporters is nowhere near as bad as the late 1960s and early 1970s, when football grounds and the local streets would often resemble battlefields. This was the era of the football hooligan. During this period, I witnessed some very frightening scenes indeed. It was real gang warfare. “Supporters” of some teams had such a fearsome reputation, that is was wiser to stay away from the game if your team was playing one of those. Thank goodness it is not like that today.
During that period a Sunday School teacher of mine, along with a lot of others in society then, tarred every football supporter with the same “hooligan” brush. It appeared that the football supporter was beyond redemption!! This was grossly unfair on the majority of those who attended matches, who had no intention of getting involved in that kind of violence.
God is no stranger to mob rule and he could easily have condemned the whole of humanity as a lost cause. But, He loves the whole of His creation, including you and me. Jesus, who described Himself as the “Good Shepherd” told a story of how a shepherd will continue to search for his sheep, until they are all safely in the pen. Each sheep is precious to the shepherd, just as we are to our Heavenly Shepherd. He will not rest until all are safely gathered in!!