Crowd trouble is a worrying blast from the past



Oh, football. Just when we've all sat down as a family and decided that it might be time to start letting you have nice things, you traipse through the house in your muddy boots again.

Sunday's Manchester derby was always going to be one of the few games that justified the 12-minute arty montages we'd have to sit through in the build-up. The two strongest teams in the division, who've both forgotten how to keep things tight, in a proverbial six pointer; it was something akin to throwing Steven Segal and Chuck Norris into a film that's only good enough to save one career.

We should all be sitting here and talking about what Balotelli's non-performance means for his Man City career, or why Roberto Mancini's buy-all-the-Arsenal-lot transfer policy didn't extend to Robin Van Persie. But we're not. The only thing to talk about involves the crowd violence, missile throwing, and alleged racial chanting following the winning goal.

We can't even feign surprise anymore. As shocking as yesterday's Mancunian fallout was, not even 24 hours earlier stewards were pulling a man out of the crowd in Swansea for making an abhorrent gesture towards Sebastian Bassong. A fortnight ago, Northumbria Police were circulating an image of a Sunderland fan seen doing similar to Romelu Lukaku. And it hasn't even been six weeks since Chris Kirkland was attacked on the pitch by a Leeds supporter. There have been more reports of abusive tweets than repeats of Top Gear this year.

All the way back in June, in the run up to Euro 2012, we were all sat watching these documentaries about the violent and barbaric fans of some eastern European nations, scoffing at how backwards these savages were and how proud we should be to have left all that sort of thing in the past. Now there's probably a man coming home from a game in Warsaw and telling his wife that he had to leave because he was worried that things were starting to “get a bit English”.

It makes the recent suggestions that the Premier League should consider a trailed introduction of safe standing areas laughable. Those in charge of the matchday experience are now aware that some people would enjoy the game more if they could watch it while standing up, and are keen to satisfy these needs. Personally, I'd enjoy the game more if someone could guarantee me that I won't end up getting called as a witness afterwards.

Where the clubs go from here is unclear, though, as they already take the sternest possible action in response to these incidents. Whoever hit Rio Ferdinand with the coin will be punished to the full extent of the law and banned from every stadium in the country for the foreseeable future, as will the young lad restrained by Joe Hart - but the problem doesn't start or end with simply getting these people out of the ground.

Football holds a unique position amongst other sports in this country by having a mass appeal that reaches over income thresholds and preconceived ideas of class and status, making it an uncomfortable mirror to hold up to the rest of society. If a worrying proportion of fans are acting like violent, bigoted thugs, what does that say about the rest of us?

Safety concerns aside, the major issue that people have with the reintroduction of standing areas is that it could see a return to the hooliganism culture that once blighted the game. I think after Sunday we can finally put those fears to rest; that side of the game already seems to be flourishing of its own accord.

Read more of Adam's articles HERE.