In Pozna, Lod, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Milan. First, second and third class. In the case of championship and winning maintenance. The phenomenon of pitch invasion is worldwide. It gives fans unforgettable experiences, adds emotions and makes it even more spectacular.
But the problems are also global: Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen was hit in the back of the head celebrating Manchester City fans and left the field surrounded by flight attendants. Patrick Vieira, the Crystal Palace coach, was provoked by Everton supporters who were delighted with the livelihood. There were skirmishes. In the play-offs for entry into the Premier League, one of the Nottingham Forest supporters punched the Sheffield United captain. Billy Sharp had to wear four stitches and the aggressive supporter was given a 24-week suspended prison term and a stadium ban. Milan’s coach Stefan Pioly had the champion’s medal ripped from his neck and stolen.
Thousands of fans rushed onto the pitch after Widzew Łódź’s promotion. Hundreds celebrated Lech Pozna’s championship
Fortunately, in Poland this year, fan invasions on the pitch have not been accompanied by similar incidents. In Łódź, Widzew fans, who won promotion to the league after eight years, ran onto the field with the final whistle. Some fell onto the field to kiss her, but most ran to hug the players. On the way, a few fans stopped Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała’s goalkeeper Matvei Igonen, but nothing bad happened. “I was a little surprised, but they didn’t tell me anything and they didn’t surround me, they just ran to their team players and celebrated,” he reports. At the post-match conference, Podbeskidzie’s coach praised the behavior of the local fans and said this is what the football festival should be like, although at the same time we hear that some players were initially uncomfortable watching the crowd of rival fans run. However, it was without problems and the fans listened to the stadium announcer’s requests and returned to their sectors after a few minutes.
It was similar in Pozna. When the players of Lech Pozna already received the cup for the Polish championship, several hundred people rushed onto the field. They were not fans of “Kocioł”, that is, the grandstand from which cheers flow on Bułgarska Street. They yelled “wypie…” to the run – I ran in, I made a slide on my knees like soccer players do after goals. There was something magical about it. The club won the coveted 100th anniversary title and I was on the championship field. I didn’t even run to the players, I just wanted to be on this pitch and remember this moment for the rest of my life. When I went down, I knocked on the goalpost – says Sport.pl, one of the Lech fans.
We saw many similar fans in Łódź. They took pictures of the pitch, looked around the stands and sat on the sidelines as they finally got the chance to see their stadium from the players’ perspective. Living this moment with the players, getting closer, was something special for them. Not available daily. Anyway, the players later said themselves that celebrating with fans on the pitch is a great experience for them too.
But it is not that Europe has a problem that does not concern Poland. Two years ago in the same Widzew stadium, fans rushed onto the pitch after being promoted from the second league, which was won in such a weak way that the players accepted a few blows instead of congratulations. Before the police responded, fans took the players’ shirts and threatened them. Adam Radwanski and Robert Prochownik were hit in the face. In 2017 Legia Warszawa celebrated winning the championship. Guilherme was awarded the medal and behind him two thugs, who they claim to be keeping order on the pitch, kicked a fan who had gone too far and walked too far. Everything was monitored by the flight attendant.
More and more aggressive and drunk fans are appearing in the stadiums
– The phenomenon is not new. It became popular in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, when even the Eastern Bloc received broadcasts of English matches, with fans often rushing onto the pitch. The cameras then showed everything, including the fights in the stands – says Dr. Seweryn Dmowski, a football researcher from the University of Warsaw.
Lately, fans are increasingly invading and associated with nasty incidents. The British concluded after last weekend that the aggression among the fans was growing. And that is not so surprising, because all studies show that aggression throughout society has been increasing regularly since 2013. Stadiums are not enclaves. In addition, fans are increasingly coming to matches under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Not surprisingly, stimulant popularity isn’t just growing among football fans. There has been debate in England as to whether the tradition of fan invasions should be broken.
– It is difficult to say what exactly is the reason for this trend of recent times. In the 1980s, running on the pitch in Britain was associated with tragedies: the Bradford stadium fire, the events at Hillsborough and Heysel, when people fled to the pitch to save themselves from death. In addition, Margaret Thatcher declared war on hooligans and the established Premier League accelerated the commercialization of the ball and wanted peace in the stands. The law was very strict, so invasions became rare – says Dmowski.
– Now, especially in the post-pandemic reality, it is popular again. Perhaps this should be associated with the coronavirus and the strong need to respond. We came out of the pandemic more nervous, many people have experienced trauma and their financial situation deteriorated. Stadiums are still places where you can express your emotions. Keep in mind that in the UK these restrictions and their enforcement are very strict. And given that a country with such traditions and fan experiences as England has a problem with invasions and can’t control them, we’re likely to face a wave of more serious consequences for the runners – claims Dmowski. – I would like the joyous rush of fans on the pitch and the party to be possible, but the magnitude of the risk is probably too great – he adds.
To keep fans in the stands? Impossible. But you get along and run wisely
– Firstly, entering the field is a crime in Poland, and the fact that this happens in connection with a promotion or winning the cup does not exclude the prosecution of the perpetrators – emphasizes Tomasz Milewski, security director of Górnik Zabrze and refers to the law on the safety of mass events. into art. 54.1 we read: “Anyone who, at the time and place of a mass event, fails to comply with the order or summons issued under this Act by security or information services shall be punished by a restriction of liberty or a fine of not less than PLN 2,000 duration: a mass event stays in a place not intended for the public or during a mass sporting event stays in a sector other than that indicated on the ticket and does not leave this sector despite the request of the authorized person.”
– When Górnik Zabrze fans rushed onto the pitch to celebrate their return to the Premier League, they had to be charged for the following year. Whoever was identified was charged. It all depends on the work of the police and the quality of surveillance. Such a sudden influx of several thousand fans is dangerous. Often there are also players from the opposing team, coaches and referees. I’m always afraid that there will be at least one malicious person in the crowd running off to hurt someone, admits the director of safety.
According to Milewski, however, it is impossible to forcibly stop the fans in the stands. – Neither in Poland nor in the world it is possible. The fans walk past the guards. But you can also organize a party in a well-considered way with up-and-coming fans. I was a safety representative at the GKS Jastrzębie competition when he celebrated his promotion. Two weeks before the meeting I was approached by a representative of the club who presented the situation that they are likely to be promoted, want to celebrate, but not break the rules. The club has established a partnership with the city and the police. He also made arrangements with the fans to quell the euphoria and not run away until the guest players and umpires entered the locker room. And it worked. Everything happened according to a predetermined scenario, the police knew about it, they had control over it, so even if the fans broke the law, there were no unpleasant consequences – he recalls.
But the questions keep multiplying. What if Widzew’s rival was ŁKS Łódź, and not Podbeskidzie? We confirmed in the club that the fans’ run-up was spontaneous and unplanned. What if someone with a knife and evil intent appears in the crowd? Stadium controls? It is often an improvised one. The experts and staff of the clubs we spoke to said unanimously: “It’s okay, as long as it’s right and nothing happens.” The problem is that in any crowd running onto the field, there could be people who called Gary Neville and Roy Keane Sky Sports “complete idiots.”