COLUMN: Ebbsfleet pitch invasion and confrontation of Nathan Ashmore left Chesterfield FC and Boxing Day protestors in a lose-lose scenario
The Chesterfield supporters who entered the goalmouth to goad Ebbsfleet keeper Nathan Ashmore have put their club and their fellow fans in a lose-lose scenario.
The club’s crackdown on pitch invaders continues apace, with further banning orders arriving on door mats this week.
It’s an irrefutable fact that the club hierarchy had to be seen to take action, after the events of the Ebbsfleet game.
Had supporters not encroached on the pitch for a second time in 10 days, then it might have been the case that the group who invaded on Boxing Day against Solihull, to protest the way their club has been run, could have got off with a warning or a suspended stadium ban even.
There’s simply no way Chesterfield, with 39 pitch invasions in the Proact era, could turn a blind eye to the fans entering the box to goad Ashmore, in what inevitably became a physical confrontation.
If the Spireites didn’t take action, the game’s authorities would – and points may yet be at stake.
Even if the club issued bans to the Ebbsfleet invaders, but not those who disrupted the Solihull game, having one rule for one could lead to criticism.
The FA might have looked dimly upon perceived weakness in the club’s response to an invasion that, let’s not forget, forced the Chesterfield inside for several minutes.
Banning fans from both incidents hasn’t gone down well with a section of the support.
It’s not that big a town, everyone will know someone who knows someone who has been banned – families who have gone to games for generations will be affected.
Can the club really win here?
In my mind the two invasions, while both spur of the moment, were very different.
On Boxing Day fans who, yet again this week were asked by the chairman to give the club another chance after successive relegations and further financial losses, decided enough was enough.
It could be argued Mike Warner’s admission that the Boxing Day incident forced the board to sack Martin Allen, legitimised that protest somewhat – although it’s clearly not the way forward to have fans on the playing surface every time they want to see change at the club.
They got change, but they’re now losing the right to go and support their team under its new management, so they too haven’t won here.
This club has made mistakes, lots of them, some of them unforgivable in fans’ eyes.
You can’t, however, criticise the board for managerial appointments that costs points or league status, if you take action that could bring a similar consequence.
On Boxing Day a group of people were spurred into action by the desperation of seeing their club sinking further into the mire.
Any debate has to include the fact that pitch invasions are a criminal act.
But perhaps it’s telling that it was only after things got out of control when Will Evans equalised against Ebbsfleet, that public attempts to identify invaders were made and bans began to be dished out.
What happened to Ashmore, regardless of his time wasting antics, was unacceptable and I believe the catalyst for CEO Graham Bean’s severe course of action.
Whatever he’s lost in terms of popularity with fans as a result, he will only regain by showing a similar zero tolerance approach if the club makes any more unnaceptable errors of its own.