Last Thursday, an incredible clip started making the rounds on WoSo (women’s soccer) Twitter. The video showed former NWSL star and current Chelsea player, Sam Kerr giving a gentle love tap to a fan who had rushed the field and knocked him flat on his ass. It was an incredible sight made even more amazing by the other fans who were screaming, “Wanker!” Kerr was hit with a yellow card by the referees and, eventually, the man who had rushed the field was politely escorted off. Although it was a delight watching Kerr handle business, the video left a sour taste the world over. How exactly was it possible for a fan to meander onto a field in the middle of a match and not be immediately tackled by security?
Had this been a men’s game, a fan would have had to have been hitting top speed to get anywhere near a player. Yet this man was casually strolling on the field with almost no interference and filming himself all the while. If it were Christian Pulisic on the field, who plays for Chelsea’s men’s side, this fan would have been arrested and charged with a fine of up to £1,000, according to The Athletic. He probably would have also been rocked by fans at the local pub after the match for laying a finger on soccer’s Captain America. “It is an offence for a person at a designated football match to go onto the playing area, or any area adjacent to the playing area to which spectators are not generally admitted, without lawful authority or lawful excuse,” the UK’s Football Offences Act states.
So, why isn’t this man facing any consequences for his actions (other than being suspended from attending games)? Because “designated football matches” do not include women’s professional matches. The Athletic reports:
According to the The Football (Offences) (Designation of Football Matches) Order, which was amended in 2011, a designated match is “an association football match in which one or both of the participating teams represents a club which is for the time being a member (whether a full or associate member) of the Football League, the Football Association Premier League, the Football Conference [the Scottish Football League or the Welsh Premier League, or whose home ground is for the time being situated outside England and Wales,] or represents a country or territory.”
Additionally, women’s matches aren’t even attended by police, according to this report, unless credible threats are known ahead of time. Police ineptitude notwithstanding, players and their fans are essentially left to figure shit out on their own. This is another affront to the international women’s game. Leagues in the UK are shelling out top dollar to secure the best talent in the world, including Sam Kerr who was penalized for ensuring the safety of her teammates and her opponents, but no one remembered to amend the law to protect those very same players. I would expect this kind of oversight from the soccer in the US, who could give a shit about what happens to women’s teams, but it’s particularly insulting that a country that worships the Beautiful Game would be so behind the ball.
As a direct result of The Athletic’s reporting, members of Parliament have introduced legislation to include women’s matches in the law, but until then everyone will just have to hope Sam Kerr is close by the next time there’s trouble.