The Sterling sending-off: Why criminalisation of fans must stop

It was a scene that was meant to encapsulate football.

A last minute winner, sending the travelling fans into raptures, but silencing a home crowd that had enthused their battling side all afternoon.

Two polar experiences; one set of dejected players, one set of players connecting with their fans. But, no, it had to be ruined somehow.

Yes, Raheem Sterling eventually got sent-off, a second yellow for jumping into the crowd: that is another matter that simply needs to be addressed.


The Devil’s Advocate take

Yet more alarmingly was the aftermath of the celebrations, which saw one City fan wrestled to the floor, kneeled on and put in what appeared to be handcuffs – though TV images can be grainy, so perhaps not.

Why, oh why, are fans constantly abused in this fashion? Because, it is abuse.

It is not only abuse in a physical sense, but an abuse of liberties; fans should be allowed to lose themselves in the euphoria of a winning goal, not worry about the repercussions of power hungry stewards.

Yes, there needs to be an element of safety – especially given the ever-present state of alert to potential terror attacks (thank God the Premier League has not be targeted yet).

But, as an away football fan these day it is near on impossible to bring in a bottle of Coke. That these fans posed any danger to the City players is ludicrous.

So there’s the Devil’s Advocate argument out of the way.


Sheer hypocrisy

What this criminalisation of fans also speaks to is a sheer hypocrisy from the powers that be. The Premier League and the EFL feed on the passion of the fans as a selling point.

TV deals are, in no small part, the consequence of the mass support for these clubs – can you really imagine Sky or BT forking out billions for rights to Premier League games if they were played out in front of empty bowls?

Yet whilst they exploit the magic of fervent following, they do nothing to nurture it and do everything to stop it.


A game of emotion and fans should not be criminalised because of it

Football is a game of emotion.

It is hard to articulate the feelings one goes through over a lifetime following their respective side, but what is not hard to describe is how without these feelings, football simply would not be a success.

Take away the raw emotion, the connection with the club and the ability to freely celebrate, and one is left with a soulless sport.

For the love of the game, the perception that football fans are hooligans intent on causing damage and wreaking havoc must stop.


Written by Michael Jones

Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97

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