English Premier League soccer fans who still complain about delays created by referees consulting video footage shifted their impatient ire this weekend to a stadium invading drone that caused a long halt in the Brentford-Wolverhampton match.
The drone was spotted about half an hour into the soccer match hosted by West London club Brentford, after it initially circled the playing field at a higher altitude before dropping down to hover above the grandstands. Following rules covering professional English matches, the presence of the vehicle forced the referee to stop play and order all players back into the locker rooms until it had left or been neutralized. The UAV finally vanished from above the stadium about five minutes after first being seen – reportedly as a police helicopter was being prepared to intervene in the aerial encroachment – but not before provoking what turned out to be a 15-minute delay before play resumed.
The drone – which some blurry close-ups suggest may have been a DJI Mavic 2 Mini – not only violated UK rules banning flight over or near professional soccer matches underway but also flaunted restrictions about overflying people. Numerous peeved critics on the Reddit r/drones subredit correctly noted Brentford’s home field is located near Heathrow airport to boot – albeit nearly 10 miles beyond its restricted airspace.
The UK incident came a week after a UAV pilot posted a video of an illegal flight over the NFL playoff game between Cincinnati and Las Vegas. That also violated several fundamental drone flying regulations, and sparked similar fury of drone enthusiasts decrying the irresponsible operator. Unlike his Ohio peer, however, the Brentford culprit didn’t upload footage of his illicit outing on to YouTube – though fans at the match quickly got their own smartphone shots online.
Perhaps the most entertaining account of the incident came from The Guardian’s live text stream of Saturday’s soccer matches, which updated the Brentford-Wolverhampton delay as follows:
Now there’s more drama at the Brentford Community Stadium as the referee takes the players off the pitch because somebody is flying a drone overhead. No, really.
The drone continues to fly over the Brentford Community Stadium, where the players have been taken off the field. Located just six miles from Heathrow Airport, it’s a bit of a security risk and now a helicopter has been summoned to … do something or other? They’re hardly going to blast it out of the sky, are they?
The drone has buggered off and the players are back out at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Tweeting events from Brentford, meanwhile, the paper’s soccer writer Ed Aarons similarly supplied amusing details on prevailing attitudes in the stadium about the drone and the resulting delay.
Brentford fans sing ‘who’s the w****r in the drone!’
No one seems to know what is happening – everyone is just looking up at the sky. Farcical scenes now as a chopper is deployed
Stadium announcer says ‘don’t blame us, blame the drone.’
We’ve just finished the first half at Brentford 71 minutes after it kicked off!
This weekend’s drone interruption was hardly the first of a professional or international soccer game. Earlier this month a French cup match between Paris Saint-Germain and Vannes was briefly halted due to a UAV appearance, and last September’s World Cup qualifier between Moldova and Austria was delayed by around 30 minutes due to a similar incident. And last May, a craft towing a banner around the pitch during a pro game in Argentina was stomped to pieces by a hacked-off player.
And back in 2014, a Euro qualifier between Albania and Serbia was stopped – and a general melee sparked – by a drone that flew into Belgrade’s stadium trailing a flag with a map showing Kosovo as part of the visiting team’s territory.
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