Football cannot run the risk of returning to the bad old days

After ugly scenes of supporters running onto football pitches to interfere with players this week, debate has been rife as to how to fix the problem.

Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 3:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 4:35 pm
Football fans watching from behind bars during the 1980s

In a little over a week, former Dons loanee James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibs fan, Manchester United’s Chris Smalling was shoved by an Arsenal supporter and Birmingham City fan Paul Mitchell was jailed for punching Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish during the Second City Derby.

Last month, scenes threatened to turn ugly during Dons’ clash with Swindon Town, with one man escorted from the ground in the away end, while Dons fans too clamoured to get to keeper Lawrence Vigouroux as he killed time late in the day.

Dons defender Russell Martin, a veteran of nearly 500 league games, says something needs to be done to ensure the safety of players, but believes the problem is one of greater society, rather than restricted to just the football stands.

Jack Grealish was attacked by a Birmingham fan on Sunday

“It’s nonsense – football is a tribal sport, people feel passionate about their city, their club, they grow up with it, but it should never turn into that,” he said.

“I hope fans realise that actually it’s not good for your football club.

“Too many people enjoyed watching that on Sunday. That has to stop, but that’s a culture thing and I hope it will change over the next few years.

“The players are representing your club, but whoever you’re against, no-one deserves that. Football players are out there doing their job.

A fan arrested at Stadium MK earlier this season

“You wouldn’t go into someone else’s office and throw a punch at them because they work for a rival firm. Something needs to be done.

“The man (who assaulted Grealish) has been punished, whether the club gets punished or not, I couldn’t stand here and tell you the correct thing to do. It is becoming too frequent, and it is becoming dangerous. You go out to play football, a job we love doing and we should never be put in danger. Hopefully, it gets stamped down on.”

Dons boss Paul Tisdale, who played for 10 years and has managed more than 1,000 games admitted something has to change to prevent supporters coming onto the pitch, but says football cannot risk returning to 1980s style fencing to cage supporters in.

“I’m certain we don’t want to go back to fences and cages,” he said. “The small details on how to stop it – I’m not best placed to consider all the options. It’s really difficult.

Paul Tisdale says caging football fans inside stadiums is not the answer

“When an individual chooses to do something, how can you prepare for it? It’s not a good thing. We don’t want to see it.”