By Tony Attwood
20 October 1990: a little bit of argy bargy was described by saliva dripping journalists as a “21 player brawl”. Arsenal won 1–0 and went on a staggering run (losing just one match all season) winning the league for the second time in three seasons.
The League set up a commission to enquire into this latest “handbags at 30 paces” affair and deducted two points from Arsenal and one from Man U. But, please note, we still won the league. There was a wonderful song to commemorate the affair, to which I have referred in the past.
I think I am right in saying that no other club had ever suffered such a point deducting punishment for player activity on the pitch – either before or since. If I am wrong I am sure you will tell me.
Way back in the 19th century Arsenal had another run in with the powers, as in 1895 Arsenal’s ground was closed for five weeks following crowd trouble. No other club had ever suffered such a punishment before. Somehow the authorities like to pick on Arsenal first.
In the 1895 affair the league matches against Burton Swifts and Leicester Fosse were played New Brompton and Leyton.
As the Premier league now considers what to do about a Liverpool player who has twice bitten opponents, J Carragher (the man who threw a coin at the crowd at Highbury, after an idiot had thrown it towards him) has said that biting should only have a 3 game punishment – exactly the same as he got for throwing a coin at the crowd.
I would have thought both crimes should have a much greater punishment, but I am sure Liverpool public relations team know what they are doing in supporting their club’s image in this way.
But enough of this home tittle tattle. Let’s move on swiftly to Mount Olympus. On the day that we celebrate the last ever match Arsenal played in the second division AEK Athens have been relegated to their second division for the first time in 89 years. (Arsenal’s last game in the second division was 98 years ago today – in case you can’t be bothered to read my stunning article on the subject).
This comes again through a points deduction – which was imposed for crowd violence at the AEK v Panthrakikos game on 14 April. Unlike the Man U v Arsenal game which carried on perfectly normally after the “fracas” (which reminds me – do fracas only happen at football matches – and come to that what is the plural of “fracas”), the AEK game was abandoned after a pitch invasion.
The game was put down as a 3-0 defeat for AEK, they got three points deducted and fined a massive €4,000. OK the use of “massive” was sarcasm.
AEK have called the relegation a “premeditated crime by a corrupt system”. I rather suspect Socrates could have found something a bit better to say on the matter and I am still not quite sure what on earth they meant by that.
Apart from all that AEK are just about bust. The whole first team was sold last summer, and they are edging along day by day. Giorgos Katidis was banned for five matches, fined a whopping €1,000 for giving a Nazi salute. (Which is interesting. Are all political commentaries in all forms liable to get a fine or points deduction? I mean if I played in a tee-shirt saying “I detest the Liberal Democrats for abandoning their policy on university fees” could my five a side club be deducted points?)
It is interesting though – you can get points deducted seemingly for the action of players (but not a player throwing a coin into the crowd nor one player biting another) and for the action of the fans (but not Tottenham fans for a game-long homophobic display at Portsmouth, which was about the most appalling thing I have ever come across in English football).
This precedent is dangerous, given the action of a few Millwall supporters who had a bit of a fight at the cup semi-final. Since there are no proper rules laid down for point deductions, no one can ever be sure which way the League or FA will jump on any infringement now. But it might be worth a few guys starting a punch up to try and get a club’s ground closed. Surely the AAA would never go so far! Would they?
We await the next bizarre or repellent action by fans or players, to see what officialdom does in response. But one thing is quite clear – whatever happens, there will be no consistency in whatever punishments the officials hand out on that day.
Just make it up as you go along.
- Match Review: Howard Webb – West Bromwich Albion Vs Arsenal (1 – 2) [06/04/2013]
- Calciopoli – Can corruption happen in the PL? – Part 3
- Why Arsenal fans should applaud Manchester United’s title winning side on Sunday
- Is it football that is mad or the whole of society? Or just me?