Cobblers defender and Professional Footballers Association chairman Clarke Carlisle says the sport has to ‘root out the idiots who throw missiles’ at matches.
Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand was hit by a coin during his team’s derby victory at Manchester City on Sunday, and was also confronted by a City fan on the pitch.
There were also coins thrown at England international Wayne Rooney when he took a corner at the Etihad stadium, and Carlisle believes now is the time to clamp down on what is becoming increasingly dangerous behaviour by some supporters.
“You can’t pretend there is no problem when one of England’s best players (Wayne Rooney) goes to take a corner and you can see missiles flying through the air around him,” said the defender.
“Until Rio Ferdinand was hit by that object, it’s only by luck that players have not been injured before because the missiles were missing their targets.
“Sadly, it has taken someone as high-profile as Rio to suffer for the issue to make the front pages. Now is the time to clamp down, now is the time to stamp it out.
“We need to lower our tolerance levels, we can’t afford to wait until there’s a tragedy.
“As an industry, we have started picking out individuals who make racist gestures or shout abuse which goes beyond the pale, so let’s root out the idiots who throw missiles or go on the pitch to confront players.”
Carlisle feels the time has come to deal with what has become an important issue ‘before something terrible happens’.
And the 33-year-old also feels the issue is proof that the hooligan activity that plagued the sport in the 1970s and 1980s is still very much a part of its modern-day form.
“On one hand, you do not want to over-dramatise the problem and resort to scaremongering, but on the other hand you can’t sweep what happened at the Manchester derby under the carpet because it was terrible,” said Carlisle.
“The truth about hooligan behaviour inside football grounds is not that it’s on the increase, nor that we are creeping back towards the bad old days, because the problem never went away in the first place.
“But the important thing is how we respond and deal with it.
“We don’t want football to reach the stage where something terrible happens before we address the issue, like tearing down the fences which penned in fans until 96 innocent people lost their lives at Hillsborough.
“And do we have to wait until an England captain is blinded by a coin to grasp the nettle and stamp down on supporters who behave in an unacceptable way?”