Everton have complained to the police in order to draw attention to the abuse targeted at their players during the Merseyside derby on Sunday.
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez had already made his feelings known in the post-match conference with his disgust towards the treatment of Steven Gerrard by a section of the visiting fans.
Phil Neville, the Everton captain, was spat at and punched by Liverpool supporters as he prepared to take a throw-in. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was forced to endure abusive chants about his daughter. I’m not overly bothered by most chanting (it’s harmless and sometimes funny banter) but there’s always been a segment that’s crude, offensive and inappropriate.
Everton’s spokesman Ian Ross:
“We felt it necessary to try to involve the safety officers and police because we cannot have a situation where supporters are having physical contact with professional footballers during the game. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again at the Merseyside derby or any other game.
Whilst we would never condone the singling out of individual players for vitriolic insults, it is a shame that Mr BenÃtez chose to ignore the actions of his own club’s supporters. Not only was Joleon Lescott subjected to an afternoon-long barrage of quite disgusting and quite audible abuse, Phil Neville was seemingly spat at several times and was also punched in the back by a supporter as he took a throw-in.
We have asked Merseyside police and our safety officer to look into the matter.”
Here’s the thing – I think Gerrard is grown up enough to take such insults on the chin but the fact that Rafa Benitez felt it necessary to express his concerns to the press tells me that it was more than your usual banter.
On the other hand, Everton have a great reason to be aggrieved – when being spat on and punched by an aggressively enthusiastic group of people in the street would count as physical assault, the situation with Phil Neville is pretty much the same.
Most Liverpool and Everton fans I know hate their rival clubs with a vengeance. However, their rivalry is non-violent and non-physical and in most cases, restricted to idle banter.
Most fans who go to the grounds to watch their teams week in and week out are decent folks. But this sort of behavior – even by a select minority – ruins the game and the atmosphere for everyone else.
Last year when a debate on racist chanting was brought up here, a lot of fans said that they self-policed themselves by shouting down the racist chanters amongst them. Will fans self-police themselves in this case as well?
Because if Liverpool and Everton fans can’t behave on their own, then the offending elements should be banned from the grounds for life.