Pitch Invaders Mar Spursʼ Qualification

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar

Farcical

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Tottenham Hotspur clinched qualification with a round to spare due to Benjamin Stambouliʼs first goal for the club. Bottom of the group FK Partizan delivered a performance that belied their lowly standing in Group C. Just after 20 minutes the first of three pitch invasions occurred, allegedly just fans wanting selfies with players, although a more sinister explanation soon emerged.

The third invasion resulted in referee Yevhen Aranovskiy taking the players off the pitch after 41 minutes. It took minutes for the match to restart. The first invader Nathan Brown was treated well by the crowd as he made a mockery of the security. The second lost his shirt – well t-shirt to Roberto Soldado after 25 minutes. Both were led away by stewards and the third was roundly booed and quickly apprehended thanks to a splendid rugby tackle by Belgian international Moussa Dembélé.

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Tottenham Hotspur said that they had not expected a third invasion and did not want to over-react by increasing security around the pitch. However, it was clear that UEFA was not impressed after the second invader was apprehended as UEFA delegate Claude Runavot was seen having a word with fourth official Serhiy Bekker – enough was enough. But the message didnʼt reach Spurs.

Prank

The invasions appeared to be an orchestrated stunt. One man bought the tickets of all three invaders. The arrested men were all wearing the same t-shirt bearing the name of headphones company BassBuds. The company moved swiftly to condemn the antics. “We have been made aware of an incident at the Tottenham game tonight”, BassBuds said through their Twitter account. “We are appalled that the game was interrupted in this manner”.

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Their protestations of innocence were undermined by their previous support for the organisation – a You Tube Comedy Channel – TrollStation that was unapologetic for the stunt, which was broadcast on You Tube under the title Pitch Invasion Challenge. It claims that it was a prank, but why wear branded t-shirts then and why do it three times?

The first one was genuinely funny. The second less so – the third was just very annoying and TrollStation and its invaders got the publicity they wanted and to be fair it has done some genuinely funny stuff previously, but this got tedious fast and has caused problems. Spurs will get a huge fine for it and may even get a partial stadium closure. That will punish genuine fans who actually wanted to watch football.

Orchestrated

The evidence points to an orchestrated publicity stunt which also provided free advertising, but probably at the expense of future business with Spurs. BassBuds and TrollStation were told on their Twitter accounts that something was going to happen the day before by Gomes Garcia, one of the men arrested at the match. “Tomorrow, it goes down”, he tweeted. Dan Jarvis was the other invader. All three were detained overnight and have been banned from White Hart Lane.

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The club has removed all mention of the BassBuds brand from club channels and related stock from their shops while they investigate whether the company was involved. They have not severed all connection with BassBuds, despite reports to the contrary, although if the company is later proved to have been involved that will happen.

TrollStation has apologised to BassBuds, but claimed that it had to be done and tweeted yesterday, “The question is Emirates Stadium or Stamford Bridge”. Meanwhile, BassBuds is left dealing with a PR disaster that may have cost them their business relationship with Tottenham Hotspur. The club faces sanction by UEFA over the security lapses and BassBuds claim that they too were pranked by TrollStation, which has been the only winner from the pitch invasions so far

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The security lapses also included an Albanian flag seen as deliberately provocative to the Serbian fans. There were no complaints about the behaviour of Partizanʼs fans.

Meanwhile, BassBuds issued the following statement.

But their statement does not address the tweet to them and Troll Station the day before the match that it goes down tomorrow (the day of the match). Troll Station later tweeted: “Do you know what?all the people that are angry at us I Am truly sorry. Itʼs for entertainment purposes Donʼt hate us please we mean no harm”.

Spurs face sanctions on December 11th that will affect real fans. Meanwhile, UEFA has yet to comment on what [security] measures were demanded by UEFA for Europa League matches?

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