Smokebombs and streakers - why fans' self-indulgent mischief shouldn't be accepted: Moira Gordon

The simple “it is what it is” offered up by Hibs goalkeeper Matt Macey when asked about the pyrotechnic interlude that stalled play against Rangers on Wednesday night, would suggest a stoic acceptance of something, he feels he is powerless to change.

Matt Macey watches as a smoke billows from a canister thrown onto the pitch at Easter Road  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Matt Macey watches as a smoke billows from a canister thrown onto the pitch at Easter Road (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

“I am sort of newish to Scottish football but it seems a bit more common up here. It’s just one of the things you have to deal with,” said the Englishman.

He’s right, it does seem more common up here and, if this season is anything to judge by, they are becoming even more prevalent.

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For many watching and the majority of those playing, the jolly japes, the protests and the selfishness are all wearing thin.

Celtic's Jota clears tennis balls from the pitch during the cinch Premiership match between Dundee and Celtic in November. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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Criticise it and face being labelled a snowflake, keep schtum and the minority of morons who think that their self-absorbed behaviour is actually (bizarrely) hilarious, feel validated.

Which is why TV companies and newspapers etc stopped publicising streakers and still tend to deny pitch invaders the oxygen of publicity because rarely are those antics funny, not after so many episodes. And, not now the shock and novelty value has long-since dissipated.

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And, it is not just the flares that are thrown onto the pitch, that some poor groundsman, steward, or as was the case earlier this season, Leigh Griffiths, has to deal with before play can continue. Moving on from coins, half-eaten pies and, historically, beach balls etc, there have been tennis balls and snowballs as well.

Anyone paying attention in recent weeks, as play was halted and the situations and various objects were dealt with, would see that the players and managers are fed up with it. So are many of the fans who share a club allegiance with the culprits but not their need to disrupt proceedings and make it all about them.

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Green and blue smoke bombs interrupted Wednesday's Hibs v Rangers game. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

“I was keen to pick one [of the flares] up because at the time I felt we had a lot of momentum and I was keen to keep going,” said Macey of the midweek mischief.

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“But obviously the police in the corner were telling me not to do it so I didn’t really know what was going on. It was disappointing because I think we were really looking to kick on at that point. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Yet more stoic resignation from the Hibs keeper.

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“When I say it’s a bit more common up here I mean the fans are that little bit more passionate. So you have to deal with the noise and everything that goes with it.

Livingston's players pick up snow balls during a Cinch Premiership match between Livingston and Rangers at Toni Macaroni Arena, on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
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“That’s something I haven’t experienced as much down south. But for me passion is a good thing, and I’m sure goalkeepers would say they’d rather play somewhere like this than a half empty stadium somewhere else.”

But, there is growing frustration, ably illustrated by Griffiths when a Dundee v St Johnstone match was disrupted in September.

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“It was regrettable that the pyrotechnic ended up back in the stand as my intention was just to remove it from the pitch,” read the striker’s statement. “But, having just lost a goal I was eager to get the match restarted as quickly as possible.”

He foolishly, albeit, he maintains, unintentionally, kicked it back into the away stand. That prompted an uproar. But he wasn’t the person who brought the pyrotechnic into the ground. And, it is probably safe to assume that those who tossed it onto the turf in the first place would have found it infinitely less amusing to have it dinked back to them.

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But since then we have had tennis balls thrown onto the Dens Park pitch by Celtic fans, delaying the match as players had to clear their workspace of the detritus, while there was an unwelcome lull in proceedings but little mirth on the Livingston pitch or technical areas last weekend after Max Stryjek’s goal was bombarded by icy snowballs. The Rangers fans who had turfed them chuckled as groundstaff were dispatched like lowly serfs to clear up their mess. The players who were forced to wait didn't. It was all so unnecessary.

It also shouldn’t be mistaken for passion. Fans now are no more passionate about their teams than supporters in the 90s or the hundreds of thousands of flat-capped spectators who packed the terraces in the 50s and 60s and managed to back their teams without the need for attention-grabbing gimmicks.

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Scottish crowds have a well-deserved reputation for their wit, and ability to find humour in most situations, and for their unwavering passion for the game but Macey’s stoicism isn’t needed when faced with such antics. Because this is self-indulgent mischief, not passion, and it isn’t something that has to be accepted.

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