The stewarding at Walsall Football Club has come in for criticism from away fans following an incident at the end of Saturday’s game with Barnsley.
A video has emerged on Twitter which appeared to show an officious steward attempting to prevent Barnsley midfielder Alex Mowatt celebrating with jubilant supporters after the final whistle in the Tykes dramatic late victory over the Saddlers at the Banks’s Stadium.
Sorry but who does this steward think he is ? Telling Alex to get away when he’s trying to clap and thank our fans for coming? No wonder Alex shoved him off. Chuffin div pic.twitter.com/tlFOb5GD5o
— Caitlin? (@CaitlinK124) March 24, 2019
During a tense game, exuberant Barnsley supporters had already thrown a flare inside the stadium and also encroached on the pitch.
However, while these incidents may have heightened the tension, this is not the first time such an occurrence has taken place at Walsall at full-time, with supporters posting something similar after Doncaster Rovers 4-1 victory over the Saddlers in September.
— Andrew Cattrell (@AndrewCattrell1) September 16, 2018
Luton Town fans also complained of heavy-handed treatment after a stoppage-time equaliser secured the Hatters a 2-2 draw in the West Midlands at the end of December.
Happened after Luton scored last minute equaliser at walsall on Saturday. Players came to clap fans at end of game but stewards wouldn’t let them closer than penalty spot
— James Harris (@JHarris2402) January 1, 2019
Stewards at Walsall well over the top….aggressive and hands-on both fans and Luton players….would be charged with assault elsewhere. As for the chief steward in blue who approached Nathan at the end – provocative & 100% unnecessary imho
— mick kent (@mickkent2) January 6, 2019
In light of recent high profile incidents, stewarding at matches has recently rightly come under increased scrutiny.
It is undoubtedly a difficult job, especially when passion and excitement are running high amongst fans celebrating significant results away from home.
However, most fans complaints around stewarding relate to a lack of common sense and the weak reading of situations and this would appear to be a case in point at Walsall.
In my experience, having travelled the length and breadth of the country supporting my team since the mid-eighties, heavy-handed stewarding can often inflame rather than defuse a situation.
It is also true that friendly stewarding often enhances the atmosphere rather than enabling it to spiral out of control.
I don’t know enough about the context of the incidents to offer a definitive opinion, but there does appear to be a pattern emerging at Walsall which is unfortunate.
It is a pattern that may exacerbate the problem because travelling fans know which grounds have bad reputations and tend to enter those stadiums in a different and perhaps less jovial frame of mind than they would otherwise enter grounds with a friendly reputation.