Presumably the working conditions for York City will be slightly different when they travel to Wembley Stadium for next weekend’s Blue Square Premier Playoff Final, a berth in the Football League’s lowest division, League Two, riding on the outcome of the match with Oxford United. The 2nd leg of York’s playoff defeat of Luton Town last Monday, March 3 was in the words of the BBC, “marred by crowd trouble”, which is a nice way of saying the visitors are lucky to have escaped with their lives. Minstermen supporter James Waterson was on hand for When Saturday Comes Daily, and obviously hopes for promotion next weekend, adding “there’s not much appetite amongst York fans for a return to Kenilworth Road next season.”
Having been in the middle of an event like this, it’s hard to strike the right balance between strong condemnation and hysteria. This was a concerted effort by several hundred people to attack visiting supporters which culminated in football players being ushered out of an emergency exit, while being hit by missiles, rather than being allowed to celebrate the biggest achievement of their careers. Esther Rantzen, watching the match ahead of her election defeat in Luton South, might have wondered exactly what it was that made her “fall in love” with the town.
Was this a return to the “horrible days of the 1970s and 80s”? It’s hard to draw a direct connection. Like many of those in the mob on the pitch, I wasn’t even born when Heysel occurred or Millwall fans took over Kenilworth Road. Premier League football and largely all-seater stadiums are all we’ve known. Against this more sanitised background, the media response starts to make sense: Sky Sports News suddenly had a story to relay live on a quiet afternoon, outrage spread across Facebook and the papers could tie it into other disturbances across the Bank Holiday weekend to create a “football violence is back” story. The media fascination with hooliganism might not have caused thousands of young men to join their local firm but a picture of a bloodied football fan certainly gets readers.