So the three idiots who disrupted Tottenham's game against Partizan Belgrade have been fined £155 each. I have to say I was hoping for more, both as a Tottenham fan and a football fan. The magistrates appear to have swallowed hook, line, sinker and bait the defendants' story that this was a spur of the moment thing and not designed with any malicious intent. It's quite difficult to square “spur of the moment” with a video released beforehand to say they were going to do it, and then timed runs on to the pitch every ten minutes. They have also been banned from attending football matches till 2018. I don't think any of these numpties will view that as a serious burden. It is interesting to compare this slap on the wrist with the punishment meted out to the man who interrupted the boat race a couple of years ago. He got six months in prison. His actions were explicitly viewed by the judge as being anti-elitist. He was also deemed to have endangered his own life and the lives of others. He might indeed have endangered his own life, but with a whole flotilla of boats looking ahead to spot any dangers such as driftwood, it is difficult to see that this was really a significant factor. And even more difficult to see what the actual danger to others was. I think it more likely that this was useful to the judge in arriving at a heavier sentence than he might otherwise, despite the jury that found him guilty requesting lenient treatment. Yes, I am accusing the judge of being biassed. I equally accuse the magistrates at Highbury Corner of being biassed, but in the other direction. Their view seems to be that disrupting a football match just doesn't matter.
It's very tempting to view this through a Marxist lens. Disrupt the sport of the elite, and you will be heavily punished. Disrupt the sport of the working classes (yes, it still is despite the nouveau riche fan base of the Chelseas of this world), and who cares. Or indeed, disrupt for the purpose of drawing attention to injustice, and we will come down on you like a ton of bricks. Disrupt for the purposes of commercial marketing, and we will dismiss it with a blink. To be honest, I don't think the members of our organs of state have the capacity to think through a conspiracy on that scale, but some sort of ambience like that is there somewhere in the background. Either way, what the Highbury Corner magistrates have done is to give out an invitation. For the price of a night out (let's face it, £155 is a meal and a couple of Stellas in some places), you can disrupt any sporting event you like, as long as it's not an elite pastime, and get your five minutes of fame in front of tens of thousands of people. The idiocy of those who did it is almost matched by the idiocy of the punishment.