Spectators’ running onto the pitch, for whatever reason, is a relatively common sight for a football fan.
Streakers, for example, can be annoying but are usually harmless. Others, such as the fan dressed as cupid who interrupted an FA Cup game between Coventry and Blackburn on Valentine's Day 2009, had an impact of the game. The disturbance forced the referee to add five minutes of injury time, allowing Christopher Samba to score a last-gasp equaliser.
There have even been cases of invaders with violent motives taking to the pitch. The melee at the end of a win in a local derby or cup game is a chaotic mess. Just ask Lee Vaughan, the Kiddeminster player who was punched in the back of the head in a match against Stockport in April 2013. Attacked from behind while trying to clear pitch invaders, the young player's family witnessed a Stockport fan swing a right hook that caught Vaughan just behind the ear.
Luckily he was not seriously hurt, unlike Romanian defender George Galamaz. He was left with a broken cheekbone after a savage assault in a match between Pertolul Ploiesti and Steaua Bucharest.
The invader jogged onto the pitch and smashed the unfortunate Galamaz to the ground before being floored by the player’s teammates and given several kicks for good measure. In fact, two players were sent off for their enthusiastic attempts to teach the hooligan a lesson.
But with lax security meaning invaders make it onto the field with alarming regularity, how long until something really serious happens?
After a steward was trampled by a horse in a game between Blackpool and Preston, Paul Ince has called upon the powers that be to stamp out pitch invasions and give harsher punishments for teams and fans who violate the sanctity of the turf.
Blackpool manager Ince asked: "Is it going to take someone getting stabbed for us to wake up and smell the coffee?" He may have a point. The shocking attack by a Leeds fan on Sheffield Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland last year is a certainly one incident that sticks in the mind.
So what can be done to curb this obsession with pitch invasion? Perhaps stronger methods to discourage fans, such as point deductions for their team, would deter supporters. AEK Athens were actually relegated after a three-point deduction which came about after Athens fans chased after Panthrakikos players who had just taken the lead against their team.
Maybe the fear of action towards the club rather than the fans would be the only thing to make a would-be pitch invader think twice. Certainly the current system of banning and fining players doesn't seem to be working.
The English football community needs to act soon before the first serious on field assault occurs on these shores.
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