David Cotterill triggered by Jack Grealish assault
Background photo: Flippo, CC BY-SA 3.0
Newton’s Three Laws of Motion are more universal than you might realise. Beyond physical movement, they also apply to emotions.
For those of you who didn’t pay attention in physics class, the Three Laws are:
1. Every object persists in a state of rest or linear movement unless another force interferes.
You until the missus changes the channel with five minutes to go in the match because Strictly Dancing is on, for instance.
2. Force is equal to the change in momentum per change in time.
If the lads are hopelessly behind, a bit of grumbling might be all her action evokes. If they ‘re down a goal, had numbers on the counter, and the ball was just whipped into the box, well, that’s a great deal of momentum disrupted in a brief instant. A major explosion is forthcoming.
3. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When you explode, so will she.
The Three Laws apply regardless of the scale. It can be a couple squabbling or a nation arguing about whether or not to stay in the European Union. In every case, the more extreme the action, the more extreme the reaction.
Which brings us to the two fools who rushed onto the pitch in English football on Sunday. One clubbed Jack Grealish with a forearm from behind. The other mocked Chris Smalling on his way to celebrate with Arsenal players. The latter occurs from time to time in matches in every country. And I mean fans mocking Chris Smalling as well as those hoping to celebrate with players At worst, each instance is a cautionary tale. The former was a regressive step towards a time when fans needed to be caged to prevent violence.
As such, the attack on Grealish produced some radical responses, possibly the worst coming from David Cotterill. The former Wales international suggested police at matches be armed. He later walked back his original remarks by claiming he didn’t intend for officers to shoot pitch invaders.
Cotterill isn’t wrong about the possibility that a fan armed with a knife may one day attack a player. He is completely mistaken regarding the effectiveness of arming matchday police.
In 2002, a Chicago father and son invaded the baseball diamond at Comiskey Park to assault the Kansas City Royals first base coach, Tom Gamboa. They beat him furiously in the seconds it took players to run to his rescue. During the melee, a folded pocket knife spilled from one assailant’s trousers.
The weapon wasn’t used. Nor was it discovered until after the duo was subdued and arrested. Chicago police, like most in the United States, are weaponised and notorious for shooting suspects both armed and otherwise. One factor tends to keep them from firing, however. That is the presence of innocents.
Not only would Grealish be endangered had an officer opened fire on his attacker, any player attempting to intervene might have darted into the line of fire.
As a former player, Cotterill’s fear and empathy for Grealish is understandable. It just isn’t rational. Other solutions would be more effective and proportionate to the threat.
A serious problem arises whenever a fan evades security to enter the pitch but it seldom occurs. A significant police presence at all Football League matches already exists. While two invasions occurring on the same day raises alarm, it must be remembered how many matches take place without any on most weekends, not to mention over the course of a season and the decades since security has been a major priority at games.
There were more than 82,000 fans at St Andrew's and the Emirates combined on Sunday. Factor in the crowds at Stamford Bridge and Anfield and the turnstiles counted more than 175,000 fans. We're discussing what to do about two.
If pitch invasions still occur on such rare occasions, perhaps a slightly larger force is needed. In addition, concern over sightlines for fans in the front rows might need to be disregarded. At some matches, police can be seen standing or sitting on chairs at measured intervals. At others, where seats are at ground level, security lays on the grass so as not to obstruct fans’ view. Reacting to a trespasser from a standing or seated position is much easier than scrambling to one’s feet. By the time the officers are up, the invader is past them. Constables can also be seated in the stands at the bottom of every aisle.
Players and match officials must be protected. It’s also apparent certain fans must be protected from themselves. The attorney for Grealish’s attacker claimed his client lost his head, that he is a father with a second child on the way.
There can be no sympathy for his actions but arming police at matches is not the solution when using guns also endangers innocents.