March 7 was one of the best days Aston Villa supporters have had in seasons. In the FA Cup quarterfinal match against West Bromwich Albion that day, the club secured their second win in five days over their local rivals and booked a ticket to Wembley for the FA Cup semifinal in the process. So it should hardly come as a surprise that the jubilant supporters rushed out of the stands and onto the pitch and stood around with big dopey grins on their faces. It was The Magic of the Cup™ writ large.
But the British media turned on Villa fans and proclaimed the show of joy as a return to the dark ages of football. Meanwhile the FA, who love nothing more than to show footage of fans storming pitches after their minnow teams slay giants in the FA Cup, reacted with horror as well, and we were all assured that punishment would be coming. Well finally, a month and a half after the incident, the FA have begun the process of punishing Aston Villa by leveling charges at the club. Here is the bulk of the announcement:
It is alleged that Villa failed to ensure that no spectators or unauthorised persons were permitted to encroach onto the pitch in relation to their Sixth Round tie against West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park.
The same charge has been levied at Reading in relation to their sixth-round replay against Bradford City at the Madejski Stadium.
Both clubs have until 23 April 2015 to respond to the charge.
Well that's an allegation that we absolutely cannot deny. And in fairness to the FA, rules were broken. No one has ever said otherwise. What remains to be seen is what the punishment meted out will be. If it's a small fine, I doubt anyone will have too much problem with it. But given the general media uproar over the event, there's the worry that the FA might be stupid and do more.
The mitigating factor here is that Villa have been lumped in with Reading, whose pitch invasion was (un-ironically) celebrated by all. That might be a good sign for Villa. Regardless, we'll know sometime in the next few days, I imagine.
And here I was beginning to think the FA had forgotten about the issue. Alas.