Australian A-Leagues club Melbourne Victory said he was ‘devastated’ and issued an official apology after his fans forced the abandonment of a clash with local rivals City of Melbourne by staging a violent pitch invasion, an incident which Football Australia says will result in “heavy penalties”.
Plan to stage a joint 20th-minute walkout to protest league administrators against the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) decision to sell the accommodation rights to the men’s and women’s grand finals of the leagues in Sydney for the next three years, City and Victory fans began tossing flares onto the playing surface at AAMI Park before making their exit, with one appearing to hit a cameraman from the Network Ten broadcaster.
Supporters had already lit flares and small fireworks over the previous 20 minutes, with City supporters launching a number of projectiles onto the pitch to celebrate Aiden O’Neill’s 11th-minute opener .
The missiles launched in the 20th minute, however, set off a spiraling series of events which saw City goalkeeper Tom Glover attempt to clear a projectile which had landed near him off the pitch, launch a rocket illuminating off the field and back into the Victory. supporters. This then led to crowds of fans rushing onto the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the violence between Good and Marseilles in 2021.
As fans converged on his position, Glover was struck in the head by a sand-filled metal bucket designed to extinguish flares launched in his direction. He was rushed off the field by teammates with blood coming from the side of his head.
Referee Alex King also suffered a gash to the head from the thrown bucket, while the match’s coach-referee was pushed into the fence. A Football Australia spokesperson described King as more shaken than injured, and he and his fellow officials were escorted to their cars by security to exit the stadium.
City officials said Glover needed stitches and had a suspected concussion after the incident.
In a statement, Victory said he was devastated by the incident and unequivocally condemned the actions of his supporters who took to the pitch.
“The club would like to formally apologize to Tom Glover, the match official, Alex King and the camera operator and to all players, officials and those who witnessed this behavior. appalling,” he said.
Both sets of players and coaches, along with the match officials, quickly left the pitch as the pitch invasion continued. the fans who remained on the surface concentrated on attacking sponsor boards and goals before being driven off the pitch by members of the Victoria Police Public Order Response Team.
After a long delay, the game was abandoned to ensure player safety, the first time an A-League game has been called off for such a reason.
In a statement, Victoria Police said an estimated 150 to 200 Victory supporters stormed the pitch and confirmed injuries to Glover and King, as well as injuries sustained by the Network Ten cameraman when he was hit by a flare.
Police said at this stage no arrests have been made, but investigations are ongoing.
“Melbourne Victory fans who stormed onto the pitch, resulting in the assault of a player, referee and matchday broadcast staff member, should be subject to the harshest penalties. possible,” said a statement from players’ union Professional Footballers Australia.
“We recognize the courage of the players, club staff and referees who have helped each other in circumstances that no one should ever be exposed to.”
Protests against the Premier League’s decision had already taken place during A-League Men’s and A-League Women’s matches which had already taken place throughout the weekend, but all were peaceful in nature.
Goalkeeper Socceroo Danny Vukovicwho was part of the Qatar team that qualified for the round of 16 of the World Cup, said on social media that Australian rules football was living its “darkest day” in light of the events.
The A-Leagues are run independently of Football Australia, but the national association remains the regulator of the game and has enforced a national code of conduct and referees; which means that they will carry out the investigation and the sanctions resulting from the invasion of the land. Its CEO James Johnson is due to address the media on Sunday morning.
“Such behavior has no place in Australian rules football, with a full Football Australia investigation to begin immediately, where strong penalties are to be issued,” a FA statement read.
Speaking to ESPN, a Football Australia official confirmed that the organization will use “full force” of their regulatory and disciplinary powers over the incident and that members of the public have already come forward to help them, as well as Victoria Police, in their investigation.