The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
The assault charge against Steven Gerrard was dropped during his court date this morning, meaning that he now faces only the comparatively minor charge of affray in connection with the DJ-bashing for which he is so widely and properly celebrated. I hadn’t paid much attention to the affray charge, partly because it seemed like a bit of insignificant punctuation added to the end of the assault charge (“assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray”), and partly because I don’t really know what the word means, except that it presumably has some connection to “fray,” into one of which Steven Gerrard, numerous announcers have told me, is never behindhand in charging, so it also just seemed descriptive, as if you’d said, “Peter Crouch has been charged with diabolical computer hacking with the intent to take over the CIA and atallness.”
Now, however, I’ve been doing some concentrated research in the hope of answering the question, “How is it possible to affray a beer mug into someone’s face?”, and my findings are quite intriguing. According to the Public Order Act 1986 s.3, and also Wikipedia, a person is guilty of affray if
a person uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and the person’s conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.
So apparently you’re not guilty of affray if the unlawful violence you’re using or threatening toward another would not cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, in which case, between the two of us, you may be a bit pathetic. So one very important question here is whether Marcus McGee, the DJ who lost a tooth and suffered facial injuries in the fist-(and mug!-)icuffs, possessed reasonable firmness, or whether he was the sort of pink-livered Barbie boy who fears for his personal safety just because a group of six or seven professional athletes are on the point of causing his hospitalization. The case will be tried in a Liverpool court, after all.
An older definition of affray, found in English and Welsh Common Law, holds that it is consisted of
the fighting of two or more persons in a public place to the terror (in French: à l’effroi) of the lieges.
So maybe that’s Gerrard’s real crime here. It isn’t that he beat up a DJ, it’s that he startled the Queen. She’d probably settled in for her typical Saturday night of snacking on Junior Mints and flipping through the police network of thousands upon thousands of CCTV surveillance channels, poor thing, when bam, there was her favorite footballer this side of Dennis Bergkamp, whaling on a DJ in a public place. Whereupon the bone-china Minting dish shattered into a thousand pieces as it fell to the floor from her trembling, l’effroi-stricken hands.
In any case, Gerrard’s next court date will occur when he and the six other defendants have a plea and case management hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on April 3.
by Brian Phillips · March 20, 2009