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Making headlines for the wrong reasons

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Joel Taggart | 13:51 UK time, Tuesday, 18 August 2009

What a weekend that was. I mean, Friday night and Saturday morning we have the Carling Premiership projected into the limelight with the news that former Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie is going to sign for Glentoran.

By 5.00pm on Saturday afternoon we have an idiot on the pitch trying to attack one of Gillespie's new team-mates and, but for the intervention of most of the Glentoran players and to his great credit manager Alan McDonald, we could have had a repeat of the Oval riot on our hands.

I was unfortunate enough to be at the Oval that fateful day, I was also at Pittodrie commentating when Rangers and Aberdeen fans confronted each other during a game that had to be stopped for 20 minutes.

But it is the first time I have ever witnessed a fan making his way onto the pitch and throwing a punch at a player. I hope it is the last.

As for the brainless idiot involved, I hope he never sees the inside of a football ground again.

He has taken Irish League football from the back pages to the front pages for all the wrong reasons. He has tarnished the good name of many good people at Portadown Football Club and in one mindless act managed to undermine a lot of the good work pre-season to market the new Carling Premiership.

Glentoran players and management help to calm things down at Shamrock Park on Saturday

Players should not have to run the gauntlet of thugs just because they happen to score a goal against a former team. That applies to any team. If our friend on Saturday at Portadown could not stomach the thought of Gary Hamilton scoring a goal against his former club then he should have stayed away. It should be a criminal offence for a fan to enter the field of play at an Irish league game, end of story.

The IFA have 'issued a statement' at this stage. Action is sure to follow, but it raises once again the role of a steward at Irish League games.

Now, to avoid any misunderstanding, let me get this on the record before I go any further.

I have the highest regard for stewards who give of their time freely at Irish League games and take physical and verbal abuse without provocation or justification. I admire them all and their efforts should be applauded, especially those who acted swiftly at Shamrock Park to remove the intruder.

The question that I would like to ask is whether these stewards are receiving the instruction and training that they deserve in order to help them do the job that they want to do as effectively as possible. Why is it that when you attend a game in England or Scotland that the stewards sit facing the crowd. At an Irish League game they all seem to be watching the match. Just a thought.

And while we are on the subject of unanswered questions, can somebody please tell me if they can come up with a logical reason why a round of derby fixtures in the new Carling Premiership is being played on a Tuesday night?

They are the biggest fixtures in the calender, so let's shunt them onto a midweek date when attendances are usually lower and when there is football on the TV. Brilliant idea!

I suppose it was the big fixture computer that just threw them out that way. The one that just happens to make sure the derby games can be played on Boxing Day.

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  • 1. At 3:56pm on 18 Aug 2009, Steve_AWS wrote:

    Yep, madness having them midweek. Though as Stute have a crunch local derby with Lisburn Distillery, it won't affect us too much! Though having our home match with Linfield next Tuesday night really doesn't help us..

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  • 2. At 6:10pm on 18 Aug 2009, colboy2 wrote:

    Just in response to Joels blog! I am a former steward for Liverpool and Everton while i was a student in Liverpool! All the stewards in England receive training on a regular basis and are paid for the work they do. To provide a more professional service to the supporters money needs to be available to pay people who are interested in maintaining the safety of all supporters in the clubs grounds. As I am a regular attender to Irish league football I can fully understand what you mean about stewards being there to watch the games! Not only at the home team end but at the away team end! (Also many of the away teams have more stewards than they have fans??? Bizarre but true!!) On numerous occasions I have witnessed people smoking in our non smoking stadia and a steward being one of the people smoking. Now does this suggest they are receiving sufficient training! These people volunteer for a free ticket Joel! Pure and simple. They are the people first out when any kind of confrontation is required! I myself am appalled on many visits to Irish league grounds to see what stewarding standards certain clubs have!!! Congratulations to the people who did help to maintain order at Portadown on Sat including the excellent work of the Glentoran Players and Officials. It is worrying to me that this supporter managed to get on the pitch and I totally agree with you that any person who enters the field of play should be charged just as we did in England and as they do in Scotland!

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  • 3. At 11:25pm on 18 Aug 2009, GeoffPike wrote:

    Joel

    Your piece on the events at Shamrock Park at the weekend is a classic example of safety first/stating the obvious journalism.

    You rightly condemn the youth who ran on the pitch looking for notoriety at the expense of the reputation of the club that he purportedly supports.

    You ignore the fact that he did not make contact with or meaningfully endanger his intended target, namely Gary Hamilton.

    You ignore the fact that Portadown FC have banned this 17 year old for life.

    You fail to point out that players as well as fans are under an obligation to behave responsibly.

    You omit to comment that Gary Hamilton acted in a manner that could be construed as provocative to Portadown fans.

    You do not mention that Glentoran fans invaded the pitch in numbers despite it being obvious that Hamilton had suffered no injury and the situation was under control.

    The events at Shamrock Park on Saturday serve only to keep Irish League football in the dark ages. However your article does nothing to expose or analyse the anger and macho attitudes that lurk in Irish League football and for which the league and all it's member clubs need to accept responsibility. Simply to condemn the indefensible takes us no further to making our local soccer a worthwhile and attractive option for sports fans in N. Ireland.

    Alastair Smyth

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  • 4. At 11:31pm on 18 Aug 2009, LinfieldNick wrote:

    Excellent blog again Joel, I hope you continue as they are both interesting and show the BBC perhaps taking a sidewards glance at the local game.
    Taking your point about the derby fixtures being on a Tuesday night where Champions League football is on- I couldnt agree more, sometimes it seems like we take 1 step forward and 3 back in relation to the revamping and branding of the new league.
    I was equally appalled to find that BBC NI/Radio Ulster didnt cover the Irish League tonight at all. How is it that arguably the biggest fixture of the season (Linfield v Glentoran) is ignored by our local broadcaster? Without the support of the local media our league will go no where fast.

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  • 5. At 08:26am on 19 Aug 2009, cwjpcrues wrote:

    Glentoran players rightly deserve credit for the way they handled their "supporters" who invaded the pitch after the Gary Hamilton incident. Also Portadown should be commended for the way they have handled their token idiot. However what action will Glentoran take against those "supporters" who have been recorded on TV invading the pitch? I suspect nothing....hopefully I am proven wrong.

    With regard to the fact that Derby fixtures were played on a Tuesday night....Why? especially when a Champions League match was on TV.

    Furthermore, I rushed home from the real belfast big two match to see the goals on TV on the 10.25 Newsline programme. Guess what? As per usual we got reports on events on the oval with footage of all the goals and not even a comment on the scores of the other matches. Should I be surprised?

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  • 6. At 8:42pm on 19 Aug 2009, rezaf600 wrote:

    regarding the portadown glentoran match. it was sad to see the events after the final whistle and while i agree with Alan Mcdonald that its important to learn lessons from this and get to a situation where you can attract families to matches i was disappointed with some of his comments.
    he said the Glentoran fans reacted the way they did because of the one portadown who attempted to assult gary hamilton. he may be right but thats no excuse for them breaking down a fence and invading the pitch
    the portadown fan was brought under control very quickly by the stewarts.
    you could say he was reacting to garys provocative celebrations in front of the home fans after scoring from a free kick that should never have been awarded in the first place. however i dont condone what he did and its right he should be punished but a lifetime ban for a young lad is a bit over the top.
    i believe the players have a big influence on the fans and need to be more disciplined and honest in the way they behave.
    its fine for them to celebrate with their own fans but not infront of the opposition fans. play honestly no diving or faking injury and everyone will enjoy the game more

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  • 7. At 8:54pm on 19 Aug 2009, scrapoffside wrote:

    the derby match at mournview was a cracker on tues night. good crowd great atmosphere and 4 goals.
    i can get to most midweek matches but saturdays don't suit.
    its hard to pleaes everbody

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  • 8. At 10:26am on 20 Aug 2009, Hatchetman wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 5:42pm on 20 Aug 2009, Linfield_1886 wrote:

    Everyone is talking about the Portadown fan who attempted to punch Gary Hamilton. What about the Glenman who hit one of the Portadown staff with an umbrella?

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  • 10. At 7:50pm on 20 Aug 2009, FullBack1234 wrote:

    I was sitting close to Joel Teggart and Lindsay McKeown at the Portadown Game, so I presume that I witnessed exactly the same sad scenario as they did!
    Portadown Fan was an idiot, and, although he did not actually strike Hamilton, I am in completely pleased with the very very quick action by the Portadown Stewards, and, the immediate Suspension by Portadown FC!
    Maybe Joel could explain why the Referee "Yellow-Carded" 2 Glentoran Players for leaving the Pitch, and celebrating with their OWN Fans, BUT, took no action against Hamilton, who, deliberately ran directly towards the Met Stand,at right-angles from his own Fans, ran off the Pitch, ran up the banking to the promenade at the Met Stand and made offensive gestures as part of his "celebrations" in close proximity of the Portadown Fans.
    He then ran back onto the Pitch and made his way, belatedly,down towards his own Fans, leaving the Pitch, again, in front of his own Fans; something which two Glens Players had earlier been booked for, but NOT Hamilton!
    Strange!
    I would commend the Glentoran Bench, Players and Stewards, few though they were, and Kyle Neill for their stirling efforts to calm and repel the large crowd of Glentoran "fans" off the Pitch.
    Blows, stones, plus a cudgel (brolly) weilding guy, did more damage that a single idiot from the opposition!

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  • 11. At 7:58pm on 20 Aug 2009, BelfastPort wrote:

    HAHA Glentoran players being excellent??? Did any others see the Glentoran players punching the Portadown "fan" who ran on to the pitch, even when he was on the ground. Furthermore good sportsmanship of the Glentoran manager and players to applaud the Glentoran fans who threw stones at Portadown fans and stewards with some stewards sustaining cuts and bruises. I wonder are these the same Glenmen who thew things at a Portadown youth team parading their trophies at half time. The TV pictures clearly show Glentoran fans on the pitch with very few Portadown fans running on to the pitch. The Glentoran fans invaded the pitch after the portadown stewards had apprehended the culprit. Some Glens players did help ease the tension (Kyle Neil, another ex-portadown player) being one.

    Last point, Tuesday night all Irish league teams were in action yet BBC late news only mentioned the result of Linfield v Glentoran. There are more tha two teams in the Irish league.

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  • 12. At 11:16pm on 20 Aug 2009, wiggy79 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 10:57am on 21 Aug 2009, wiggy79 wrote:

    Joel, i am disappointed at the focus of this post: I think you are a great commentator of Northern Irish football but i do not think Saturday's incident(s) at Shamrock Park have been reported accurately.

    Yes, a Portadown fan ran onto the pitch and tried to attack Hamilton.

    Here are some very obvious things that have not been reported but could clearly be seen from BBC television footage:

    1. When Gary Hamilton (Northern Ireland International) scored his winning goal, he ran away from the Glens support, ran up the bank, off the playing surface and celebrated his goal in the home stand by making rude gestures towards the home support. How did he not get booked for this action?s

    2. Around 30 Glentoran fans broke down a gate and entered the playing surface.

    3. Some of these Glens 'fans' entered the Portadown stand and attacked fans and stewards and club officials with fists, rocks and even an umbrella.

    4. While the young attacker was lying on the ground under stewards control he was struck by at least one Glentoran player.

    5. Glentoran fans stole a banner from inside the home stand.

    6. Glentoran fans have a history of violence at many many recent matches, even among themselves.

    7. I did not see one Glentoran steward at the match.

    None of these points have been mentioned in newspapers or reporting of the game. Why is this?

    Is it any wonder that provincial teams are so aware of the bias there is towards the so called 'big two'.

    I'm sure Portadown will receive some sort of punishment but if Glentoran Football Club do not get a similar punishment it is a disgrace.

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  • 14. At 12:21pm on 21 Aug 2009, geoAlan449 wrote:

    Whilst I agree glentoran fans are at fault our fans ran onto the pitch to defend our player. What if the fella that ran on had a weapon of sorts? On hamilton running to your support players are human and he was getting abuse for the full course of the match. If you are not big enough to take it them don't give it out. The stewarding issue was agreed by both clubs in the security meeting that took place.

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  • 15. At 1:07pm on 21 Aug 2009, pandy_andy wrote:

    First of all Joel, top article. I hope you write more.

    Absolutely on the button with regards to stewarding. I used to be a steward at Scottish football matches (including the Old Firm) and the differences between the professionalism over there and here is frightening. Granted the two leagues are different in stature, but we all must start somewhere.

    The main thing I agree with is the fact that these fixtures were played midweek. It is only the first of a spate of midweek matches to come up, and is ruining the local game. In this round of matches, I think how difficult it must have been for Lisburn Distillery fans in particular to travel across the country to Institute for a 7.45 kickoff, when the majority of them will finish work at or after 5 o'clock. Not just that, but we must remember that the players are part time as well, and if they have spent all day at their jobs then it is ludicrous to expect them to play in the evenings when there are more than enough Saturdays in the calendar to have the games. It's all very well if you are a full time footballer such as in England and Scotland, but here in the Irish League football has been played exclusively on Saturday for over a hundred years (without any problems).

    I also wish to address this problem as a Crusaders supporter. I am involved with a Crusaders supporters club, and in their glorious wisdom, the IFA have seen fit to have more midweek matches (as stated earlier) this season. That means that we, for example, must play Institute and Coleraine away midweek. Aside from the obvious inconvenience of travelling after work, we also lose support as many cannot go as they would be able to on a Saturday. As these are two of our furthest away games, the financial implications for our club could be severe, as these matches in particular are oriented towards family days out, when we almost triple our numbers. That won't happen this year, and in this financial climate, it's bad for us personally. I'm sure other supporters clubs are in the same boat.

    Basically, the stewarding problem and the fixture calendar are both problems that can be fixed easily...providing the IFA get the finger out.

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  • 16. At 01:35am on 22 Aug 2009, WeeReds11 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 17. At 4:27pm on 23 Aug 2009, WINDSOR1886 wrote:

    Re stewards at Irish league games. If they do not have a recognisable security company logo on coats/bibs then they will probably be unpaid volunteers. Clubs cannot afford to pay security companies to steward games on a reguler basis. To be honest they are hardly needed when most away teams usually take a paltry number of fans on the road. The exception being the visit of Linfield and Glentoran. Event security companies are employed by both Linfield and Glentoran when the teams play eachother.

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  • 18. At 8:20pm on 23 Aug 2009, scrapoffside wrote:

    joel i think you should reply to the comments people have made about your original story? they have made a lot of good points. Your story seemed very one sided against Portadown.

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  • 19. At 9:20pm on 24 Aug 2009, enviablejbwils wrote:

    Ever heard of spell checker Joel?

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  • 20. At 11:58pm on 24 Aug 2009, FullBack1234 wrote:

    Joel,

    As they sing at most Games:

    "O you've gone very quiet over there!"

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  • 21. At 11:41am on 25 Aug 2009, BelfastPort wrote:

    Glens fans can't call it defending a player when the idiot who ran onto the pitch was down on the ground and dealt with by stewards. The invasion and stone throwing happened after the incident had already been dealt with.

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  • 22. At 5:55pm on 25 Aug 2009, WillyGFC wrote:

    How could the stewards of had it under control? How did he manage to run on the pitch and attack a player? the real reason why it didnt end up a lot worse was because of the Glentoran players who helped calm down the supporters, There wasnt too many Portadown players about after the full time whistle.

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  • 23. At 00:16am on 26 Aug 2009, BelfastPort wrote:

    You have misread my point. The portadown stewards had the man who ran onto the pitch down and apprehended. This happened before the Glens "fans" invaded the pitch. Does defending a player involve throwing stones at innocent Portadown fans and stewards??? Obviously not. Not too many Portadown players after the full time whistle - not too many Portadown fans on the pitch after the full time whistle either. CCTV will catch all the offenders and all the fans who ran onto the pitch. Very few Portadown fans ran onto the pitch and were quickly dealt with. 30-40+ Glens fans ran onto the pitch. I don't think anyone can say Gletoran stewards were in control. Lessons have to be learnt but blame is not one way. Hopefully next time football will be the topic of conversation (As well as a Ports win)!!!

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  • 24. At 5:24pm on 26 Aug 2009, scrapoffside wrote:

    i believe its time to put the portadown/ glentoran incident behind us, learn a lesson from what happened and be better organised for the next match. i hope the IFA offers help to these Clubs to prevent crowd trouble rather than just slap a fine on them which does more harm than good in todays financial climate.
    Time to move on to a new subject Joel

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  • 25. At 7:02pm on 26 Aug 2009, Joel Taggart wrote:

    Sorry folks, I was away for a few days last week and didn't get around to posting.
    Firstly, in response to GeoffPike, I didn't ignore the fact that Portadown had banned the 'fan' who ran onto the pitch. I had blogged before the club issued the ban, my posts are also moderated so didn't go active immediately.
    I applaud the club for their actions, but I never doubted that they would and it is wrong to suggest that this is some sort of anti-Portadown attack. Definitely not.
    Every village has an idiot and this could have happened at any number of Irish League grounds.
    As for players’ behaviour and Gary Hamilton’s goal celebration, I am with Glenn Ferguson in his Sunday Life column this week. Banter is part and parcel of the game and it seems to me that some fans can happily dish it out, as they did with Hamilton during the game, but seeing his goal celebration was something that a small minority couldn't take.
    It poses a question, what is provocative? And if Gary Hamilton did act in a provocative way as some have suggested, why did so few Portadown fans react?
    As for Glentoran fans entering the pitch, I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear, new to this blog business and all that. I said in my original post 'It should be a criminal offence for a fan to enter the field of play at an Irish league game, end of story.'
    That applies to ALL fans of ALL clubs. Portadown, Glentoran, Linfield, Coleraine, Crusaders, whoever you fancy.
    Others raised the lack of coverage of midweek games on BBC Radio Ulster and scorelines on BBC Newsline. I'm sure you will be aware that I do not have the power to change such things but I have passed your comments on those who make the decisions.
    I would like to thank those who posted regarding their experiences of stewarding in England or Scotland, this is where the focus should be. Let’s help those who give up their time to do the job that many of us would not do.
    In his post PandAndy mentioned the fact that Crusdaers had two long away journeys midweek. Just a quick point, the game against Coleraine was scheduled for Seaview, but I think it was reversed, along with other fixtures, to allow the new artificial pitch to be installed at Seaview.
    Disappointed to see the curtain pulled down on the international career of Keith Gillespie, at least while Nigel Worthington is in charge. When you listen to the manager, you can understand his reasons, but I just feel that it would be a terrible shame if Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup finals and there was no place for someone who had given so much in the squad.
    Finally for now, a positive from the game between Portadown and Glentoran at Shamrock Park last weekend. Kevin Braniff. What a player, on the basis of that performance anyway. Can't wait until the next time I get to watch him.

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  • 26. At 9:10pm on 27 Aug 2009, cwjpcrues wrote:

    We know about Portadown's commendable instant reaction to their "village idiot". However an interesting report would be a follow up in say 4-6 weeks time to find out what exactly happened to the others involved in the fracas at Shamrock Park(i.e. Glentoran fans who invaded the pitch). All too often it is swept under the carpet and many people get away with it. A little follow up report to show that x,y and z were given bans/fines/custodial sentences could act as a major deterrent.

    Should noone actually receive such sanctions / be prosecuted (sadly this is how i think this will turn out), an investigation as to why they did not in light of such graphic evidence would show the club and the IFA up for not taking the issue seriusly enough.

    On another note, as far as I am aware Crusaders will only have to rearrange one match against Ballymena in October to allow the laying of their new 3G pitch.

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