[quote_center]Villa fans were on the pitch in jubilation, not to open some portal to some previous sinister dark age.[/quote_center]
There always used to be a certain amount of trust by the public afforded to the BBC as a rational news source in a media world dominated by red top sensationalism; which has only worsen since the click-bait phenomena of the internet. The BBC always had an apparent duty of care to the licence payer and didn’t let commercial factors get in the way of the news, but in recent times its reputation has sunk dramatically due to the recent multiple allegations of sexual abuse committed by BBC staff and also a lowering in the standard of its output.
We’ve already discussed the BBC TV commentary team’s unnecessary scandalising of Villa supporters on-pitch celebrations and how the BBC meekly replied to MOMS readers complaints, but with the time afforded by the international break, lets look at the print journalists over reaction to events in the FA Cup at Villa Park.
It’s important not to let this be swept under the carpet, as the media will still take any opportunity to hysterically typecast football supporters as hooligans or neanderthals.
Lets start with the BBC’s own Phil McNulty, who did a splendid job of carrying on where the BBC commentary team of Mark Lawrenson and Jonathan Pearce left off in demonising Villa fans. Surely the BBC’s chief football writer has not written a more irresponsible piece in his career?
Phil McNulty – BBC Sport
FA Cup pitch invasion: Villa Park scenes throwback ‘to dark ages’
Spiel highlights in italics and evaluation:
‘Sadly, the inevitable happened as the frustrations of Albion’s fans at a harsh red card for Claudio Yacob and Villa’s second goal from Scott Sinclair manifested itself in casual, mindless vandalism as claret seats were ripped out and hurled on to the pitch and in the direction of home fans housed directly below.’
McNulty’s sticking to the facts, so far…
‘This was the signal for an unsavoury response from Villa supporters, goading their opponents mercilessly before embarking on scenes plucked from the dark days of the ’70s and ’80s. It was an atmosphere heavy with threat.’
‘Goading mercilessly’? When a local team beats another to win a place at Wembley, a certain amount of ‘goading’ will naturally take place. Some Villa fans went up to the few WBA fans that remained in the lower away end and wound them up with chants and took pictures. Pretty standard stuff.
McNulty’s use of ‘mercilessly’ is complete hyperbole, although it pales in comparison to what is to come…’before embarking on scenes plucked from the dark days of the ’70s and ’80s.’
What scenes are those? I don’t remember anyone getting the Stanley Knife treatment or getting hit by a bat. I don’t recall any fighting in the stands at Villa Park. I don’t remember seeing running battles between opposition fans on the pitch. Did McNulty see fans being shipped off by the ambulance load to hospital or in police vans to the local nick? I also don’t remember seeing any police horses running on the pitch to break up angry mobs. What exactly were these scenes from the ‘dark days’?
McNulty has either decided on the moral panic tabloid approach to get the BBC more clicks or he has lived a very sheltered life in the ’70s and ’80s, if he thinks what happened on the Villa Park pitch after the final whistle reflects the worst behaviour of those decades.
An ‘atmosphere heavy with threat?’ There were hundreds of women and children on the pitch.
‘Many Villa fans were on the pitch in jubilation but this misses the point entirely. This is still an offence and it was clear that the safety of some West Brom players was threatened and compromised.’
No McNulty, it doesn’t miss the point, because it is the point! Villa fans were on the pitch in jubilation, not to open some portal to some previous sinister dark age.
As we see from the following picture, the BBC normally loves a good FA Cup pitch invasion.
McNulty trying to paint the WBA players as victims is simply lazy journalism, applying the patronising equation of: Fans on pitch = players in danger.
As video evidence proved beyond all doubt, two Albion players in particular went out of their way to antagonise young Villa supporters who were running past to celebrate. Are WBA players purposely shoulder barging and tripping fans really ‘threatened and compromised’?
‘Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill had already been mocked and subjected to abusive gestures by a fan and at the final whistle Callum McManaman was one who was jostled and provoked, getting involved in angry altercations before finally being led away.’
Yes, Myhill got mocked by one or two fans (he’s ex-Villa playing for the Baggies), but there was no physical contact or anything beyond what he suffers week-in and week-out from the stands. Now, as for the earlier reference to the two WBA players that were clearly seen to physically antagonise Villa fans, Callum McManaman was one of them. If he got into ‘angry altercations’, it’s because he instigated them. Villa fans would obviously not be happy to see fellow supporters being barged and tripped.
‘Irrespective of, as Sherwood said, “emotions running high” these fans should not have been on the pitch and it was clear plenty were not offering words of commiseration to McManaman and his cohorts. It was a throwback image.’
Nice one McNulty, just dismiss any voice of common sense. The Villa boss Tim Sherwood, despite his post-match TV interviewer trying to commit him to condemn fans, he just told it how it was. If we had indeed had returned to the ‘dark days of the ’70s and ’80s’, and McManaman had been aggressive to Villa’s C-Crew or the Steamers, the Albion player would have spent the night in hospital. Even then it would be hard to find words of commiseration for him.
‘And it may have been wise to wait before slipping the celebratory song “Que Sera Sera” on to the public address system while such a toxic environment was still being brought under control.’
‘Toxic’! Were you even at the match Mr McNulty? The club’s only crime is not plugging the steward gaps to prevent the premature pitch invasion, which were first highlighted when some fans spilled on the pitch to celebrate Villa’s second goal with the players.
‘Pulis was correct when he said: “It’s disgraceful. We don’t want to see those scenes. They’ve beaten us and for that to happen, that’s just mindless idiots. If you’re Villa you need to look at the stewards as they came over to our fans and there was nobody there.”‘
Pulis’s remarks have been shown up to be a little hypocritical. West Brom had a last day of the season pitch invasion in 2005, when they beat the drop on the last day of the season, and when Pulis managed Stoke City, the Potter’s fans spilled on the pitch to celebrate their Wembley date in the 2011 FA Cup semi-finals after beating West Ham. Apparently, those two pitch celebrations weren’t disgraceful though.
I agree with Pulis’s remarks about the stewards, but tarring all fans with the ‘mindless idiots’ tag and his hypocritical evaluation of events make him come across as something of a sore loser.
‘Villa’s fans have had so many dark days in recent times that exuberance and excitement is not only expected but understood. There can be no excuses, however, for much of what a watching nation witnessed. And those Albion fans ripping out seats deserve equal condemnation.
Of course, the vast majority of supporters were well behaved and had no intention of transgressing, but a largely vibrant atmosphere was laced with a little poison throughout.’
There seems to be a tactical retreat to a state of common sense here as McNulty has empathy with the Villa supporter’s celebration. Plus, he downgrades ‘heavy threat’ and ‘toxic’ to a ‘little poison’.
‘It was to be hoped the sight of seats being thrown on to the pitch, invasions of the playing surface, players running for the cover of the tunnel and police drawing batons on fans had been consigned to the past – sadly this was not the case here and did a disservice to a big FA Cup occasion and another big win for Villa and Sherwood.
Sadly, this will be a game not simply remembered for a result but also for a brief return to English football’s dark ages.’
But, McNulty relights his scaremongering with his mention of ‘police drawing batons’ and his pointed words of ‘invasions of playing surface’. What has been forgotten, as the writer got carried away in heightening his negative spin, is what an incredible atmosphere Aston Villa fans put on for the ‘big FA Cup occasion’ and for the BBC cameras.
Just when have post-match supporter celebrations on the pitch become a product of the ‘dark ages’? A few days later, despite a Reading fan interrupting play and a smoke bomb being thrown at the Bradford City fans after the final whistle, Reading’s pitch invasion was described by the BBC as ‘lovely scenes’.
Further hypocrisy by the Beeb was then seen when they included a couple of clips of Villa fans celebrating on the pitch in a BBC Sport video promoting the International Day of Happiness.
If the Villa game evoked anything of the 70’s and 80’s, it was the rare sight of a passionate and noisy home crowd creating the type of atmosphere that drew most of us to watching football in the first place. Such irresponsible reporting is dangerous, as it can influence a train of thought that could further sanitise the game. Now that really would be ‘toxic’ for the soul of football.
Media Muppet Rating: 10/10
The BBC needs to work out its company line on pitch celebrations!
Make sure you voice your concerns to the BBC, if you haven’t already, by using their online complaints form. They have created a standard reply to Villa fans voicing their opinions on their TV coverage, so to avoid getting that reply, select ‘BBC Online’ then ‘BBC Sport Online’, then cut and paste this link of McNulty’s article discussed above: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/31784920
In case you missed them: recommended reading on the irresponsible FA Cup media coverage (the later two both mention McNulty’s effort):
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