Four Manchester United fans who were involved in altercations with Roma fans before the Champions League clash between the two sides last week had lengthy jail terms handed down to them on Friday by Italian courts.
Two, Kyle Dillon and Richard Wimmer, were sentenced to 30 months, while the other two, Nicholas Lucas and Michael Burk, were sentenced to 29 months.
The four were convicted of charges of resisting arrest and assault after being allegedly a part of a group of hooligans that broke away from the official supporters’ club and not only went looking for trouble, but got it.
The violence took place at the Pont Duca d’Aosta Bridge, a notorious hangout spot for diehard Roma supporters and the scene of incidents during April’s Champions League quarterfinal tie between the two sides. During the fight, five Manchester United fans were also stabbed.
The four, who were reportedly dressed in black with scarves around their faces, were identified by video footage that covered the bridge.
Given the recent history between the two clubs, with pre-match violence taking place in both of the Champions League quarterfinal ties last season, and all of the recent violence that has given Italian football two black eyes, it wasn’t the time nor the place to start trouble, not that there ever is.
The quartet will be appealing their sentences, and will have two chances to appeal before they have to serve their sentence, so there’s a chance the sentences will be suspended so that they return to Britain, or at the least, shortened.
If their sentences are suspended, and they are allowed to return to England, they don’t need to be let off scot-free. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for their passports to be revoked and to have a lengthy ban from attending football matches placed upon them.
When we’re kids, we’re taught the basics of what we don’t need to do, like running with scissors or touching hot stoves, basically avoiding any situation that could result in something bad happening. Along the same lines, when you are specifically warned against going somewhere, or you already know the likely outcome before the action, and you do it and then end up feeling the repercussions from it, it’s no one’s fault but your own.
There’s nothing wrong with being a fanatic. But there’s a difference between being a fanatic and being dumb, and both sets of fans that were involved weren’t using their heads.
If you truly love your club, logic should dictate that there are certain lines that you should not cross, and this is one of them. Not only does it result in trouble with the law, like in this case, where these guys got lucky, because they’re still breathing, but it can also affect your club, even if you’re the ones who deserve the full brunt of the punishment. There are just some people who are intent on causing problems, irrespective of the consequences for themselves or others.
For Roma, it’s the latest in a string of incidents involving supporters from their club, and as a result, they received a hefty fine from UEFA. As for United, they received a smaller fine, though UEFA won’t be so kind the next time around. But, you have to credit them for letting the legal system do its job and not penalizing either club too heavily when they very could have. Slap on the wrist? Maybe so. Lesson learned? I hope so.
In the end, everyone got off relatively easy, even if you throw in the jail sentences. It certainly could have been a lot worse. But, I would venture to say that if these two get paired up at a later stage in this year’s competition, or if they get drawn together in the near future, one of three things needs to happen: 1) the matches are played behind closed doors, because it appears that some people on neither side are not going to behave, no matter what happens, 2) security checks at every possible point and as many law enforcement units as fans, or 3) the two sides get re-drawn against different opponents and are kept as far away from each other as possible.
The overwhelming majority of fans know how to behave when they go to the matches, because they are genuinely going there for the football, and at worst, to get good and liquored up and fling abuse at the opposing team’s players/coaches/fans. It’s not as if that’s any better, but I’m not expecting everyone to be little angels and sit down the entire 90+ minutes. You can ban alcohol, but people will still find a way to drink, and sober or shitfaced, there are some people who are just riled up when they’re watching a game, on TV or in person.
But, if it escalates to the point where fans are getting violent with one another, inside or outside the stadium, or fans are taking out their feelings on the people on the pitch, that’s taking it a little too far.
You can place all the regulations and take all the measures you’d like, but there are some people who will slip through the cracks and do what they want regardless. But this should serve as a lesson to those who go seeking trouble and nothing else, as if they shouldn’t know the potential price already.
Dillon and Lucas, who are 23 and 18 respectively, are too young to have the likes of Heysel mean anything to them, but if they get to spend Christmas with their families, they best consider themselves lucky that they didn’t get anything worse, or that no one was seriously injured.
And if they or their cohorts ever get to attend another football match or sporting event of any kind, that they get their ticket, sit their asses down, and mind their business, because history really doesn’t need to repeat itself, because the effects on the pitch will pale in comparison to those off of it.