Aston Villa's 2-0 win over local rivals West Brom in the FA Cup Quarter Final was marred by crowd trouble at the end of the game. Things have gotten even worse for the club with the FA imposing a large fine on the club as a result.
A statement released by the Football Association this afternoon read:
"Aston Villa have been fined £200,000 after admitting spectator misconduct in relation to their FA Cup Sixth Round tie against West Bromwich Albion on 7 March 2015.
"The club was charged for failing to ensure that no spectators or unauthorised persons were permitted to encroach onto the pitch area whilst attending the game at Villa Park.
"Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, Aston Villa were also severely warned as to the club's future conduct."
Obviously, pitch invasions are a breach of safety and as such, the FA were right to sanction the club. However, the severity of the charge and the hypocrisy of both the FA and the wider media need to be looked at following this case. There are a few points to consider.
The charge laid out against Villa was for "Spectator Misconduct." But whilst there should definitely have been more stewards present, the fact that the kickoff time for a local derby was 5.30PM was definitely a factor, and not a factor that Villa were at fault for. The kickoff time was clearly chosen so that the game could be televised, but all it did was allow for both sets of fans to spend hours in the City Centre pre-match, which essentially added alcohol onto an already flaming situation, especially given that the two teams had already clashed that week in the League, with Villa coming out as narrow winners.
Whilst everyone has been quick to blame the Villa fans for the misconduct, the West Brom fans must also be held accountable for their actions. Here's what the article on The Birmingham Mail said:
"Seats were also thrown from the away end as the atmosphere turned ugly towards the end of the match."
Despite this, it is Aston Villa who have the crazy large fine, with West Brom avoiding sanctions. In addition, whilst fans rushed on to the pitch before the players could leave the field, the didn't appear to be any serious confrontations with Albion players, until video footage emerged of West Brom players Callum McMananman and James Morrison physically assaulting Villa fans as they ran past them. The fans in question weren't going up to the West Brom players to gloat, they were literally running on to the pitch to celebrate a huge win for the club, and the Albion players went out of their way to push them and kick at them. And yet they went unpunished.
One final nod must go to the pundits over at BBC sport for their appalling hypocrisy. This Tweet from Match of the Day seems to suggest that they advocate pitch invasions as part of the "magic" of the FA Cup:
This view quickly vanished of course when a few hundred Aston Villa supporters wanted to celebrate their teams achievement after months of depressing football under Paul Lambert. Once it was broadcast live of National Television, the magic of the FA Cup was replaced by a "return to the dark ages," according to BBC Sport's chief football writer, Phil McNulty.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that Villa had no part to play in the trouble, the club definitely deserved some sort of punishment, just not to the extent that we have seen. The amount of factors that have seemingly been ignored by the FA seems to suggest that Villa have been made into scapegoats, and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth personally.