Next Game: Forest Green Rovers at Home on Wednesday 25th July at 7.45pm

Monday, March 06, 2017

A Perfect Storm

This article was written by Mr Ally-Cat

A Perfect Storm 

When I returned home on Saturday evening and had a phone call asking me what had happened at Didcot, I had a hard job explaining – we scored, some of our fans came onto the pitch in celebration, a confrontation occurred with the Didcot players, starting with goalkeeper, they all piled in, our lads got involved and chaos ensued, causing the referee to abandon the game – I think. The old adage of if ten people see an accident, they will all give different accounts came to mind. Reading some of the excellent accounts and seeing pictures on social media have cleared the dust a little from my memory, it was certainly an afternoon none of us will forget. The video published today was excellent and certainly puts to bed some of the more outlandish claims about trouble at the game.

However, it is sadly no surprise to me and shouldn’t be to many Hereford fans who travel away that a problem finally occurred. They say Christmas comes but once a year, but for many teams in the MFL last season and the EVO-STIK League Southern's Division One South & West this, it has come twice – once when Santa visits, and once when Hereford visit. Increased gate receipts, more business for the burger bars and boy oh boy can we drink – I say we, I don’t personally at games, it is hard enough to work out what some of the referees are doing sober, without adding drink into the equation – but many do and that has become an issue. As an entity we are a well-supported top conference or lower league club, plying our trade at grade 8. At Hereford there is not a problem because we retained Edgar Street, and the structure of a league club but lower down, it is. Small clubs, with average attendances of less than a few hundred are faced with a logistical situation the like of which many of them have not coped with before and to be fair most of them have risen to the challenge and a good time is had by all. However, there have been problems and on Saturday they all seemed to come together at once – to list a few:

a) Our “fans” invading the pitch – this is unacceptable and started the whole incident off.
b) Serious lack of stewarding – where were they? I can’t remember seeing any until the incident occurred
c) Alcohol freely available before and during a game – some of our supporters are drunk and become a liability
d) Abuse of opposition players including objects being thrown – the goalkeeper handed something to the referee during the game and this is unacceptable
e) Poor officiating – while the referee cannot be blamed for the idiotic behaviour of the fans, he should be able to deal with the players and on Saturday he didn’t.

Add to this the incredibly belligerent attitude of the Didcot players and Saturday became a perfect storm of events – idiocy, alcohol, poor organisation and refereeing all combining to end what should have been a great afternoon, particularly for Mike Symons and the rest of our lads who had put on such a strong display after Ryan Green’s inexplicable sending off.

The opportunity to drink at games isn’t something we’ve seen much of over the years and I was surprised to see it at St Neot’s when I saw Hereford United play during our “off” season. The sad reality is some of our fans turn up early, spend a lot of time in the bar, and then become belligerent and obnoxious during the game. This was most evident at Tonbridge but I am sure has happened elsewhere. The lack of stewarding is also an issue, both in numbers and experience. The standard of refereeing can leave a lot to be desired and can exacerbate an already tense situation. There was no reason why on Saturday the stewards dealt with the fans, while the referee should have be able to get the players back into the middle of the pitch to continue the game, once said fans had been removed, but the referee had no control whatsoever and the escalation of events meant he then had no choice but to abandon the game. He hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory during the 86 minutes or so, but cannot be blamed for the behaviour of the fans.

So all that leaves us with a game that may need to be replayed – I can’t think they’ll leave the result as is, there were a few minutes plus injury time to go, and disciplinary action to be taken against both clubs – us for our fans, and Didcot for a failure to control their players, though I think that may, unjustifiably, be taken against us as well. I have no idea what sanctions are available to be taken but fines and point deductions may be possibilities.

In many ways we are an easy target, a victim of our success, the big boys to be shot down by whatever means possible. We are everyone’s cup final, home and away, including that of the referees, many of whom have never officiated in front of so many fans, certainly the display on Saturday left much to be desired. However, we also need to look at how we behave at away games and eliminate the undesirable behaviour that has crept in. At the moment I think the video evidence shows we were more sinned against than sinning, but if our supporters had stayed off the pitch, probably none of this would have happened, and for that we need to take responsibility. I think many people will disagree with what I’ve written above, but if we are to become the club to be truly proud of, our fans need to behave in a responsible manner and copy the example our players set on the pitch on Saturday. Now when is that replay! COYB