The drama of Liverpool’s last-minute winner against Everton on Sunday was upstaged, for all intents and purposes, by manager Jurgen Klopp sprinting 40 yards onto the pitch to embrace his goalkeeper.
The German would later apologise to Everton’s Marco Silva as well as to everyone in general, saying he meant no disrespect and was caught up in the passion of the moment.
Predictably, Klopp was hit with FA charges the next morning. Liverpool fans immediately weighed in to defend their manager, posting pictures online of pitch invasions by who else but the pantomime villain of the moment, Jose Mourinho.
It did not take long for clips to surface of Pep Guardolia’s unmitigated celebrations inside the pitch after Raheem Sterling scored a 96th minute winner against Southampton in November 2017. Guardiola escaped with a rap on the knuckles then, the FA saying the Manchester City manager had been ‘reminded of his responsibilities.’
Naturally, there were mutterings, partly in Portuguese, from the other side of Manchester as Mourinho had received a red card for putting a foot inside the pitch during United’s victory at the very same Saint Mary’s barely two months earlier.
The FA has decided to take a dim view this time of the (momentary) madness of King Klopp but it is not likely there will be more than a warning or at worst, a fine. Klopp is lucky because he is a manager and so at least allowed beside the pitch, within the technical area and on the bench. Otherwise, he could well be facing a criminal charge under the Football Offences Act.
Section 4 of the Act makes 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).’ The wording of the section, does not exempt Klopp, manager or no, since he is ‘a person at a designated football match’ who has gone onto the pitch without authority. However, his being charged under the Act is probably as likely as an Arsenal fan wishing that Spurs would win the league.
The Act was made in 1991 and section 4 targeted fans rather than playing or managerial staff. Fences separating terraces from pitches had been removed after the Hillsborough disaster two years earlier when fans were crushed to death against pitch fencing in an overcrowded stadium. Without physical barriers, it was deemed fit to use the law to discourage fans from encroaching on the field during matches, although the Act covers things done from up to two hours before a match to one hour after it.
In 2014 for instance, Jordan Dunn, was convicted under the Act for running onto the pitch as Spurs lined up a set-piece. Before he was apprehended by stewards, Dunn managed to kick the ball which was saved by an oblivious Adrián San Miguel del Castillo in goal for West Ham.
Social media wags would later observe that Dunn’s effort was much better than the subsequent free kick by Christian Erikson when play resumed.
The Act also creates two other offences, for throwing missiles onto the field (section 2) and for indecent or racialist chanting (section 3). After Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang scored the first of his two goals in Arsenal’s 4-2 home win over North London rivals, Spurs, earlier on Sunday, section 2 was called into action. Several Spurs fans threw missiles onto the pitch as the Gabon captain celebrated with his teammates near the away section. One of the missiles, a banana skin, was most significant given the player in question.
The culprit, Averof Panteli, a 57-year old van driver, plans to plead guilty when he appears before the Highbury Corner Magistrates’ court on 18 December. He insisted he was not racist and had just picked up the nearest object he could throw without thinking of its connotations.
The Act does not have terms of imprisonment though and merely punishes offenders with fines. In 2015, three Spurs fans – ah yes, them again – were fined £155 each after they invaded the pitch during a Europa League game against Partizan Belgrade. Moussa Dembele tackled one of them which, yet again, was allegedly much better than his contributions during actual play. The court also banned the three invaders from football games in England for three years.
But even in the notoriety of pitch invasions and the like, the English title eludes Spurs fans and goes instead to Sam Gorman, who ran across the pitch naked for a £100 bet during a televised Premiership game between Aston Villa and Manchester City in February 2012. Magisterates did not find it funny and in addition to the obligatory £155 fine, placed him on the Sex Offenders Register for two years for indecent exposure.
Arguably the most famous pitch invader in the world however is Jimmy Jump – real name, Jaume Marquest i Cot – who has crashed the UEFA Champions League finals 2007, the FIFA World Cup finals 2010 and the Copa America in 2011. During his cameos, Jimmy Jump has bantered with on-field with some of the game’s greatest including Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi. He was on the pitch during the Real Madrid v Barcelona game in 2005 that became famous for Real fans applauding that most virtuoso of displays by Barca’s Ronaldinho.
But Jimmy Jump’s infamy has come with consequences. By the time he jumped Cristiano Ronaldo in the Camp Nou in May 2011, his fines totalled over €250,000 forcing him eventually to flee his native Spain for Germany (where perhaps a certain manager of Borussia Dortmund at the time was taking notes). In Jimmy’s words, he ‘passed from being the best pitch invader in the world … to being … an immigrant working like a robot in a factory.’ All of which perhaps begs the hashtag question that Aubameyang posted on Twitter after the Spurs’ game, along with a picture of a banana: #whysmandoingthis?
Dr. Ntephe is a lawyer and an English FA registered football intermediary.