There was no ex­cuse, Ch­ester­field

The Non-League Football Paper - - THE WEEK IN WORDS - Alex Narey Editor – @anarey_NLP

Our front page story in last week’s is­sue (Head­line: Out of Con­trol) be­came some­thing of a talk­ing point through­out the week on social me­dia. It cer­tainly ruf­fled the feath­ers of Ch­ester­field fans, who vented their frus­tra­tion that we had cho­sen to make such a fuss about a pitch in­va­sion and the un­savoury scenes that fol­lowed rather than fo­cus­ing on the pos­i­tives of their mag­nif­i­cent come­back from 3-0 down to muster a draw in a pul­sat­ing 3-3 con­test with Ebb­s­fleet United. For a few dis­grun­tled Spire­ites fans, our paper was noth­ing more than a ‘sen­sa­tion­al­ist rag’ that was an ‘em­bar­rass­ment’ to the Na­tional League. The irony of such com­ments were not lost on me...

Come­backs – even one as im­pres­sive as Ch­ester­field’s last Satur­day – hap­pen ev­ery week and are part of the fab­ric of the game, while pitch in­va­sions are not. For this rea­son alone, and tak­ing into ac­count the ugly con­fronta­tions be­tween some fans and play­ers – no­tably one ‘fan’ clash­ing with Ebb­s­fleet keeper Nathan Ash­more – it was never go­ing to be a story we ca­su­ally swept un­der the car­pet. Added to that, when the Ch­ester­field chief ex­ec­u­tive, Gra­ham Bean (who served in the South York­shire Po­lice for 20 years be­fore be­com­ing the first Com­pli­ance Of­fi­cer to serve at the FA) made an of­fi­cial state­ment out­lin­ing the club’s fears for se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of phys­i­cal con­tact be­tween a fan and a player and racist in­sults be­tween a fan and a player, we were duty bound to re­port on such mat­ters. Sadly, the weight of the al­le­ga­tions and the video footage that fol­lowed meant this was front-page news.

The drama at the Proact Sta­dium un­folded af­ter de­fender Will Evans had net­ted a 95th-minute equaliser. With emo­tions run­ning high, a num­ber of Spire­ites sup­port­ers broke on to the play­ing sur­face with one con­fronting Ash­more – who was on his back on the floor of the goal area. A melee then en­sued with Ebb­s­fleet play­ers rush­ing in to add their sup­port be­fore the al­le­ga­tions were made.

While the in­ci­dent it­self left a sour taste, some of the jus­ti­fi­ca­tions of­fered by a small sec­tion of Ch­ester­field sup­port­ers were ac­tu­ally more dis­turb­ing (these are grown men, by the way). To claim Ash­more “had it com­ing” to him, or that a player in­cit­ing the crowd and time-wast­ing is an ex­cuse for fans to en­ter the field of play is quite laugh­able. Fans throw dog’s abuse at play­ers but when a player gives some­thing back his ac­tions are un­ac­cept­able. And as for time-wast­ing? Sorry, but it’s a dark art of the game that ev­ery­one hates un­less your team is do­ing it in the 93rd minute when pro­tect­ing a one-goal lead. Ash­more was booked for time-wast­ing, so the ref­eree re­acted and took ac­tion. Go­ing on to a foot­ball pitch and tak­ing mat­ters into your own hands is no so­lu­tion to the prob­lem.

There were ini­tial fears that the club would be hit with a points de­duc­tion. But that would be a step too far for me, and it would be grossly un­fair on the vast ma­jor­ity of de­cent Ch­ester­field fans. But some­where down the line, a club is go­ing to have to pay for such in­ci­dents with the harsh­est pos­si­ble penalty. Even if it is only a group of mind­less prats who have no idea how you should be­have at a foot­ball match.

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