Rangers manager Steven Gerrard believes only lengthy custodial sentences for offenders can halt the current spate of pitch invasions in British football which are placing the safety of players at risk.
Gerrard called for “an example to be made” of the two spectators arrested over the weekend for targeting his captain James Tavernier and Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish in the latest high profile occurences of crowd disorder.
Shortly after Gerrard spoke to the media yesterday, Birmingham City supporter Paul Mitchell was jailed for 14 weeks after pleading guilty to his attack on Grealish on Sunday.
While debate continues over the introduction of a form of strict liability, which would see clubs punished for any supporter misconduct at their grounds, Gerrard insists imposing tougher sanctions is the best way to deal with the issue.
“I think that’s the only thing that would work,” said Gerrard. “It’s down to the authorities to punish them properly. The only way these things will stop is to go and make examples of them, proper examples. It would plant that seed in every other idiot’s head not to do it moving forward.
“There will be regret for them when they are sitting in a room with a brick wall, a tiny window that doesn’t open and they are in there for two, three or four years.
“When they do it at the time, they think they are heroes in front of their mates, don’t they? It’s all ‘I ran on the pitch, I did this … blah, blah, blah’. But then even their mates won’t come and visit them in jail for two or three years, because they realise their mate is just an absolute idiot.
“What happened with James at Easter Road on Friday and then Jack Grealish at Birmingham City on Sunday, you are talking about two idiots who came onto the pitch, two thugs. I don’t really want to waste any time on them but unfortunately we have to speak about these things.
“We have been speaking about crazy stuff that has nothing to do with football for two or three weeks now and it’s getting a bit boring. You have to pay credit to James but also the way Jack behaved as well. Both of them were very, very professional during the incidents and they deserve a lot of credit for that.
“Your first instinct in that situation is to defend yourself. Let’s hope that we’re not talking about another one of these incidents moving forward. But it’s not going to stop until the punishment is more severe, simple as that.
“James and Jack handled themselves very well, as did all the other players around them because it could lead to something else. We could quite comfortably be sitting here talking about players with two broken jaws, a broken nose, stitches and all that carry on. We are lucky in a certain way that there hasn’t been much damage done. We just need it to stop. Now. The authorities need to give severe punishments out that make an example of both of them.
“I’m not sure why it has been happening so often recently. The important thing right now is that everyone in football makes sure their security operations are on their toes at the moment because it seems to be very popular over the last couple of weeks. Everyone needs to be on their toes.
“It’s difficult to give a reason as to why there have been these two incidents in such a short space of time. I’m just really looking forward to seeing what punishment they get.”