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To wake up this morning and watch the sport segment from the BBC’s Breakfast programme, one might have figured that League Two had witnessed the beginning of the decline and fall of western civilisation rather than a fight at the end of a football match. Brows were furrowed and the tone of the presenters was hushed and dark. Indeed, it was almost difficult to believe that they had just watched a video of bunch of young men in polyester throwing punches at each other for thirty seconds.
Just as Rome was neither built nor collapsed in a day, the world will not end because a handful of players from Bradford City and Crawley Town couldn’t rein it in at the end of last nights match at Valley Parade. Sure enough, to start pushing, shoving and throwing your fists around in a football pitch is not the smartest thing in the world to do, and even if we allow for the likelihood that the average professional football isn’t necessarily the sharpest tool in the box, the players involved last night should surely have known that, but a rush of blood to the head can do strange things to the brain of the male of our species. These things happen, and it seems unlikely that no amount of hand-wringing can prevent this.
None of this means, of course, that the Football League won’t act upon last nights incident. There is a strict, almost ritualistic protocol that is followed in such cases, and the slightly weird process of what we might call football justice will be seen through, likely to its fullest extent. It is understood that five players – three from Bradford and two from Crawley – were shown red cards, and few of them can expect much leniency. The extent to which the clubs as institutions will be called to account remains to be seen, but in the current climate of indiscipline it would be unsurprising if the proverbial book was thrown at both clubs. We don’t know whether the ultimate sanction – points deductions – might be the eventual outcome for the two clubs, but anybody with any experience of football’s wheels of justice will be fully aware of the authorities’ propensity to make the rules up as they go along, and neither side can have much reasonable mitigation for what happened last night, regardless of the whataboutery that might come out over the next couple of days or so.
Regardless of what sanctions the Football League or the FA decide to mete out, both clubs may well find that there are significant side-effects on the rest of their seasons in any case. Bradford City have been slowly sliding towards the relegation places as the season has worn on, and last night’s result means that they are four points from falling out of the Football League altogether, just eleven years after their two year stay in the Premier League ended. With battle against relegation as tight as it is – five points separate Northampton Town in eighteenth place from bottom of the Hereford United – slip-ups cannot now be afforded by anybody in this group of seven clubs, and the experience of Lincoln City and Stockport County in the Blue Square Premier this season provides a chastening example of what can happen should that trapdoor swing open.
Crawley Town, meanwhile, are back in the automatic promotion places at the other end of the table, but only by one goal on goal difference from Rotherham United, but they may yet find that such distractions are the last thing that they need as the season reaches its climax. It has been suggested that last night’s events were the inevitable culmination of a season of gamesmanship in extremis from the Crawley manager Steve Evans, but the evidence might even suggest that his team were more sinned against than sinning last night.
This, however, might count for little in cold light of day and if whichever disciplinary panel is involved finds itself investigating this matter finds itself being influenced by Evans’ behaviour elsewhere – whether consciously or subconsciously, whether rightly or wrongly – there will be few that have much sympathy for him. Ultimately, the cost of suspensions to both clubs – and it is worth bearing in mind that the five sent off may not be the only players to find themselves landing in hot water – could prove to be greater than any embarrassment that the supporters of either club feels this morning.
For all the moral indignation that will be swirling around this morning, though, the fact remains that the primary impulse to incidents such as that seen at Valley Parade last night is to laugh. There is something fundamentally ridiculous about the sight of grown men in brightly coloured football shirts throwing punches, and it is also worth bearing in mind that such incidents make the headlines in the way that they do because of their comparative rarity – the days of mass brawls on the pitch being commonplace are as yet not quite with us. There are plenty of aspects of football that we should be angry about, but it feels as though occasional bouts of rage on the part of players should be fairly low on that list. The decline and fall of western civilisation hasn’t quite started yet.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
“any embarrassment that the supporters of either club feels this morning”
I very much doubt Crawley supporters feel embarrassment about anything – if they’re not worried about the way their club’s been funded or their obnoixious manager and his track record, I don’t think a bit of post-match argy-bargy is going to concern them.
Anyways, most of them are probably too busy celebrating Chelsea’s win from last night to have even noticed
Only one course of action, deduct 20 points from each club.
A case of Say Hello, Wave Goodbye……
p.s. Did Chelsea win lasrt night??
Throw a punch and you’re looking at a 3-match ban minimum, though i wouldn’t be surprised if these guys get 6.
Dive to win a penalty or get an opponent booked, and at the furthest extreme you’ll get a 1-match ban; more likely than not you’ll get nothing.
What a disgusting set of morals football has.
“whataboutery ” is now my favourite word and I’ve worked hard to think where I can use it and claim it as my own. Bradford and Crawley are made for each other. I watched the former try to kick a Wimbledon team off the pitch a few weeks ago and their captain commiting suicide with a second yellow for kicking the ball away (well actually out of the stadium) and ending the game with 20 fouls against their name. Not much I can add to criticism of the team from Gatwick. Their old supporters must grimace every time the manager opens his mouth but the newer glory hunters won’t care. Both could really suffer what they deserve if a points deduction happened because Crawley have a big squad not really affected much by the suspensions. (Bradford will still escape the drop though.). Hope Crawley go up as I watch league 2 football and really do not want to have to contemplate a visit to or by them next year. Crawley need a new manager to progress. He’s never done anything without money and never will. For the old fans please mr Evans go
For those of you wondering about precedent for a points deduction, in 1989 the FA deducted Manchester United one point and Arsenal two points and fined both clubs £50,000 after a fight during an FA Cup match – Arsenal’s deduction was higher because they had already been involved in another fight on the pitch that season, against Norwich City. It’s a long time ago, but this demonstrates that it isn’t completely unheard of.
Crawley more sinned against than sinning?
Six yellow cards shown during the game, of which Bradford had none & Crawley had, errr… six.
Might that suggest something to the neutral observer? If nothing else it suggests a referee who wasn’t fully in control of matters…
Further to Dickster’s comment, all six Crawley bookings occurred in the last half hour of the game…
Just goes to show that the non-League world is far better off without Crawley. We don’t want them back – ever.
In such matters, I think the video should be watched a panel of boxing judges, who could award points using the boxing scoring system. Then use this tally to work out how many points to deduct from each team. Simple.
It’s just so nice to see Crawley back in the headlines for all the right reasons…
What possible evidence is there that Crawley were “sinned against”?
Anyone who has seen them play and heard their manager speak surely knows what caused that fight. just listen to both managers interviews after the game, one was proud of his players and one was utterly shell shocked and lost for words at what he’d witnessed. No points for guessing which was which.
Bradord could go out of business for being dragged down to Crawley’s level and that would be the biggest shame in footballs history.