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That's because the law enacted to curtail disorderly fan conduct at soccer matches in the UK does not apply to the women's competition, per the report. So the Metropolitan Police department has not arrested the fan from Wednesday's incident, it confirmed to Harpur, and it has no intention to do so.
It's a troubling loophole as the women's game grows in popularity.
No arrest for fan decked by Sam Kerr
A young fan walked onto the pitch during a women's Champions League match between Chelsea and Juventus on Wednesday. Security was nowhere to be found and a Chelsea player attempted to push him gently toward the sideline to get off the pitch.
When he sauntered back toward the players still taking a video of himself, Kerr dropped a shoulder and decked him. What appeared to be a trainer or coach ushered him off the pitch at that point.
(NSFW language warning for video below:)
Full unedited video here for any journalist that wants to use it. Don't need to ask permissions as I'll be asleep for next 8 hours. pic.twitter.com/PI76WC87Uw
— Bradley Cox (@Bcoxy2012) December 9, 2021
Kerr was given a yellow card and the club suspended the fan. But the police department confirmed to The Athletic no arrest was made, even though Section 4 of the Football (Offences) Act of 1991 would seem to allow for such an arrest.
Disorderly fan conduct law does not apply to women
The law states: “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 [which shall be for him to prove].”
The key term is "designated football match." By the provision enacted in 2004, a designated match is one in "which one or both of the teams represents a club which is a member of the English Football League, the Premier League, the Football Conference or the League of Wales, or represents a country or territory."
The list excludes women's games completely, per The Athletic. Therefore, the fan who walked onto the pitch is not in violation of the law and did not commit an arrestable offense.
Women athletes' safety takes backseat
The women's Champion League was founded in 2001 as the UEFA Women's Cup. Lawmakers could and should have included it by name in the 2004 provision, but did not.
It's another example of women's exclusion from the general sport conversation, and it has potentially dangerous impacts. This time it ended well enough, with Kerr decking the fan in a laughable moment that flew around social media sites overnight. But it could have ended in tragedy.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes raised concerns with reporters after the match, noting that with the growth of the women's game and players becoming superstars, their safety needs to become a priority.
But The Athletic reported that matches are not attended by police unless there is a specific need, such as a sold-out stadium or recent crime in the area. And the issue reaches across the pond where the WNBA and NWSL are growing in popularity in the U.S.
In September 2019, Los Angeles Sparks star Chiney Ogwumike saw a fan coming at her sister, former MVP Nneka Ogwumike, while on the court after a game. Security was there to tackle the fan, though he initially got by them.
But in general, security is more lax at women's events. And now, at least in the UK, it's clear that laws don't protect female athletes, either.
That change needs to be made a priority before something terrible happens.