Keeping Off The Grass

I travelled to Vienna during the week and took in the Rapid Wien v Sturm Graz football match. There were about 17,000 spectators in the 20,000 capacity Hanappi Stadium so were a bit surprised to see so many police outside the ground in full riot gear. The home side had played the derby match with rivals Austria Vienna on the previous weekend but this seemed to be overkill.

Upon arriving in our seats we witnessed a bizarre example of OTT policing. A small number of fans had managed to get onto the pitch and they were then chased by the Polizei stormtroopers. Whether this is a way to justify the overtime bill is open to conjecture but this was just crazy. Indeed, from our standpoint we would have thought that this was more likely to incite a riot than solve any problems.

Certainly, the police were not dealing with the numerous flares deployed by the fans (though none were thrown) so this aspect of continental football supporting appears to be the norm. A great spectacle but you wouldn't want to be next to the guy holsding the firecracker whilst he gyrated up and down like a demented West Brom fan.

In stark contrast to this reaction comes the news of the abandonment of the game at Chester City. It is sad to see what has happened to this club over the years; they have rolled from one disaster to another. On Monday, they could possibly be expelled from the league for financial irregularities.

According to the BBC report, the police made the decision to call the game off -with Chester leading Eastbourne 3-2 - despite the fact that there appears to have only been a handful of protestors on the pitch. (Youtube video)

Perhaps Cheshire Constabulary need a fact-finding junket to Austria to see how to deal with these matters. Or maybe an exchange visit.