Manchester City right to escape punishment for pitch invasion
When the full time whistle went at the end of Manchester City's 5-0 win over Swansea on Sunday, it was clear there was going to be a pitch invasion. Extra stewards had lined around the perimeter advertising boards and fans were in a celebratory mood, with the match the first since the club clinched the Premier League title. When the match was over, supporters poured on to the field to enjoy the club's third title in seven seasons.
Pep Guardiola and his players rushed out of the way and down the tunnel -- with the exception of Benjamin Mendy, who stayed out for a few moments longer to drink in the atmosphere. The defender has become a social media hit in his absence through injury, so it was little surprise to see him get involved with the masses.
The manager defended the fans' actions amid fears City could have been charged by the Football Association, but those worries were quashed on Monday. The governing body decided no action was necessary because it was "celebratory in nature". Join us next week for another episode of "Stating the Obvious".
There haven't been a huge number of pitch invasions by City fans down the years and those that have are more often than not good-natured. The most recent bad-tempered one came 25 years ago , when supporters witnessed their team crash out of the FA Cup 4-2 to Tottenham at Maine Road. Play was suspended and police horses were needed to clear the troublemakers from the pitch.
In the years that followed, City fans only ever burst from the stands in celebration. After a torrid season in the third tier in 1998-99, the club's lowest ever ranking in its history, the supporters piled on to the Maine Road turf after winning the playoff semifinal second leg 1-0 against Wigan. The result saw them take a 2-1 aggregate victory. There was light at the end of what had been a very dark tunnel.
"We're the famous Man City, and we're going to Wembley!" was the cry. Fans didn't care it was for a third tier playoff final rather than to contest FA Cup or League Cup honours. That's how bad things had been in the years before.
Having beaten Gillingham to go up to the second tier, City fans were back on the Maine Road turf at the end of the following season. Joe Royle's side were on the brink of back-to-back promotions after a 1-0 midweek win over Birmingham and supporters thought they'd done enough to return to the Premier League -- only to see Ipswich take an unlikely win at Charlton, who'd already been crowned champions.
Never ones to miss out on a party, though, the supporters instead invaded the Ewood Park pitch the following week, after City's 4-1 victory at Blackburn got the job done on the final match of the season.
Some opposing fans have criticised the City supporters for their reaction to the win over Swansea. Of course, the atmosphere inside the Etihad was jovial from kick off -- the home side were champions, after all -- so there was no immediate rush of jubilation on the final whistle. The win did nothing to change the course of City's season, they were guaranteed to be top of the league at the end come what may.
This wasn't the explosion of joy that the 2012 or, to a lesser extent, the 2014 titles saw. There had been no nerves at the beginning of the match, replaced by the exhilaration of winning. The first Premier League-winning pitch invasion at the Etihad followed a 92nd-minute equaliser and a 94th-minute winner -- from such a devastating low to such an ecstatic high, there was only going to be one outcome at the end of City's 3-2 win over QPR in May 2012.
But because this term didn't have that sort of drama, many saw Sunday's pitch invasion as excessive. Imagine being that downbeat after having seen the champions perform as they have done this season to decide how the fans enjoying it should and shouldn't celebrate.
Ultimately, City supporters shouldn't be chastised for bursting on to the pitch and celebrating with the players. Football is a game of emotions and if you can't enjoy yourself in a good-natured and safe manner at the earliest opportunity after being crowned the best team in the country, when can you celebrate?
It's right the FA will take no further action. It'd be detrimental to the sport if they had sided with the Fun Police on this one.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney