We have all seen the viral videos of people running onto fields during sporting events. The moment their feet touch the grass they are pursued by a handful of security guards, which often leads to an epic chase and eventual smackdown. Nowadays, security at sporting events is taken very seriously to prevent any harm to the athletes or their spectators. So the question is – why was someone able to effortlessly walk up to the players during a Chelsea versus Juventus match on December 8th?
Chelsea forward and Australia Women’s National Team player, Sam Kerr, took matters into her own hands at Kingsmeadow in London as a man invaded the pitch. In the viral video, you can see the man walk onto the pitch with his phone out. Kerr then approaches him shoulder first, and the man drops to the ground. After the unexpected takedown, it appears security shuffles him off the pitch, but he walks off without being apprehended by security. The stadium filled with cheers as Kerr handled the situation so play could continue, but those cheers quickly turned to boos from the crowd as the referee decided Kerr deserved a yellow card for the incident.
It is concerning that this so-called “fan”, who wanted a picture with Chelsea team captain Magda Erikkson, was able to waltz onto the pitch without being detained by security. It has been further reported that he will not face any legal ramifications. Turns out that disorderly fan conduct at soccer matches does not apply to women’s competition in the UK. The Football (Offenses) Act of 1991 states…
“(1) In this Act, a ‘designated football match’ means an association football match designated, or of a description designated, for the purposes of this Act by order of the Secretary of State. Any such order shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament… 4. Going onto the playing area. It is an offence for a person at a designated football match to go onto the playing area, or any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse (which shall be for him to prove).” -legislation.gov.uk
The words to pay attention to here are “designated football match” which according to the provision enacted in 2004 only applies to, “which one or both teams represents a club which is a member of the English Football League, the Premier League, the Football Conference or the League of Wales, or represents a country or territory.” This crafty wording excludes the women’s leagues altogether, but the Women’s Champions League was founded in 2001, so why aren’t they included in the 2004 provision? This is a dangerous omission that allows stadiums like Kingsmeadow to not have ample security for women’s matches.
“3.—(1) The association football matches specified in paragraph (2) are hereby designated for the purposes of the Football (Offences) Act 1991.
(2) A designated match is an association football match in which one or both of the participating teams represents a club which is for the time being a member (whether a full or associate member) of the Football League, the Football Association Premier League, the Football Conference or the League of Wales, or represents a country or territory.” – legislation.gov.uk
Essentially, these women athletes are not protected in the same way their male counterparts are when participating in matches. It is extremely troubling that this absurdly outdated act was revised only about sixteen years ago with a women’s league established in the UK and lawmakers still decided to omit women from it. As the women’s game continues to grow around the world, the safety of these athletes’ needs to become a top priority.
Thank you, Sam Kerr, for bringing to light the still ever-present contradictions and discrimination surrounding women’s sports.