It’s confession time. I’m a football fan and I’ve been on the pitch when a football match was being played at the Millennium Stadium.

In my defence, your honour, I should point out that I was holding a microphone and that, rather than stopping match winning moves, I was jumping in front of players to conduct interviews in my role as a Sky Sports reporter.

I’ve been inside that stadium many, many times as both a reporter and a supporter. I was there as a fan when Wales beat Italy for instance. That was a brilliant night, incredible atmosphere and a tense, enthralling game against prestigious opposition. When Craig Bellamy scored, nobody went on the pitch, when the full-time whistle blew on an historic victory, nobody went on the pitch.

The National Wales: Liam Williams has to step around the pitch invader during the Wales v South Africa match. Photo: Huw Evans Picture AgencyLiam Williams has to step around the pitch invader during the Wales v South Africa match. Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency

In fact, in all the football games I’ve attended at that stadium, I’ve never once seen anyone go on the pitch. When I worked on Wales games for Sky, there was a bloke I always used to see and nod to, tough looking guy in tracksuit bottoms and football boots. He spent the game perched behind the hoardings staring at the crowd. His job was to tackle any wannabe pitch invader. I never saw him leave his position.

As football fans, we’re used to being controlled and restricted in ways that would shock and appal the rest of society. We can’t travel when we want, we get kept in, kettled, marched, denied access, told we can’t have a drink, we have bubble fixtures, early kick offs and if we so much dare to set foot on the pitch, we’re likely to be arrested then convicted, possibly jailed and certainly banned from attending any games in future, even from traveling anywhere on the days in the vicinity of games.

Given all that, forgive me for being just a little perplexed at the revelation that the pitch invader at the Wales v South Africa rugby match on Saturday was frog marched round the pitch and then ejected from the stadium. Bar the fact that he was soaked in beer - thrown over him by fans who are allowed to drink in their seats (lucky them) - that was it.

“On your way, son”, train back to Caerphilly, notoriety successfully acquired, bet won.

Oh sure, he’s now been banned from “buying any tickets from the WRU for rugby events held at Principality Stadium in future,” but that doesn’t sound like he can’t actually attend games in future, or just get his ticket from other sources.

No criminal conviction and no blanket ban on being inside or near any rugby stadium anywhere when there’s a game on.

It actually led me to ask why it was that he hadn’t suffered the same fate as any football fan who’d run on and stopped Gareth Bale in his tracks as he was bearing down on goal? I genuinely hadn’t realised that you can only get nicked for going on the pitch if you’re at a football match. So, same stadium, same crime, round ball or oval and you’re treated completely differently. How can that be right?

I don’t wish punishment on anyone, but does it really do the game of rugby union any good for there not be any further sanctions to prevent this type of behaviour? There were two significant pitch incursions in the two autumn internationals to date, one apparently for YouTube hits and one for a small bet. Neither protagonist will face criminal proceedings for their actions. Ultimately, they might both actually feel it was worth it so what’s to really discourage anyone from doing the same in future, particularly after a day on the ale/Prosecco?

Images of both incidents were broadcast around the world on TV and then social media. This can’t be the sort of exposure the WRU or the game itself wants. These idiots have imposed themselves on the event, tarnishing the prestige and diminishing the efforts of the athletes.

The National Wales: The pitch invader before the game. Photo: Huw Evans Picture AgencyThe pitch invader before the game. Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency

For me, there’s a bit of a problem with these fixtures anyway as, bar pride, there’s not really anything at stake. From what I’ve seen having been in Cardiff on non-Six Nations international days, it’s a big day out on the lash and the rugby match is just an element of that… almost an excuse. Win, lose or draw, it doesn’t really matter, it’s more about being there. Is it surprising that some people might seek other amusements if they’re not fully engaged in the spectacle?

By contrast, what football fan would run on and break up a Wales attack at a crucial stage of that vital World Cup qualifier against Belgium next week? Can you imagine the uproar never mind the usual repercussions?

I’ll actually be in Cardiff this coming weekend to watch my team play Belarus and I’m staying over, so maybe I’ll try and get a ticket for Fiji on Sunday. Then let’s see if that tough looking bloke in the tracksuit bottoms and football boots can catch me.

I’ll bet you £20 he can’t…

Bryn Law is a broadcaster, writer and commentator, as well as a lifelong Wrexham AFC and Wales fan. 

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