Operations

Three men charged after A-League pitch invasion

Featured image credit: Paladisious/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Paladisious/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size

Three men have been charged after a pitch invasion led to a player and the referee being injured during Saturday’s A-League football match between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory.

The derby match at AAMI Park had to be abandoned after 22 minutes with City, the home side, 1-0 up. Victory fans entered the field of play and assaulted City keeper Tom Glover, who suffered a concussion and severe lacerations to the face.

Glover was taken to hospital and cleared of any further trauma, before returning home in the early hours of Sunday morning. Footage of the pitch invasion showed Glover being hit by a metal bucket that was allegedly thrown by a Victory supporter.

Referee Alex King was caught up in the incident after trying to shield Glover, while a camera operator was also injured by a flare. The pitch invasion was sparked after Glover appeared to throw a flare back into the stand where Victory fans were located.

Victory and Football Australia have received several reports from supporters and the general public, and Victoria Police confirmed today that a 23-year-old has been charged with violent disorder and discharging a missile, among other offences, after being accused of throwing a bucket full of sand at Glover.

A 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old man have also been charged with allegedly assaulting Glover in separate incidents. The three men self-presented to police stations today and were bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in February.

Around A$120,000 (£66,000/€76,000/$81,000) of damage has been caused to AAMI Park, with around 50 flares allegedly lit in the stands. At least three of these flares were thrown on to the pitch, and Victoria Police said that more than 150 fans entered the playing area.

In a statement released yesterday, Australian Professional Leagues said the incident marks a “watershed moment” for the sport in Australia, adding that its clubs will work with law enforcement agencies and Football Australia to ensure that the game can “never again be used as a camouflage for criminals”.

Football Australia has issued a show cause notice to Victory following what it described as the “horrific” incidents at AAMI Park. The club has been given until 9am AEDT on Wednesday to show cause why it should not face “serious sanctions” for bringing the game into disrepute through the conduct of its supporters.

Sanctions could include financial penalties, loss of competition points and/or playing matches behind closed doors or on neutral territory.

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said: “What we all witnessed on Saturday night can only be described as horrific and conduct that is not consistent with the values of Australian football nor the expectations of our community.

“I have personally contacted Melbourne City goalkeeper, Thomas Glover, and match official, Alex King, over the weekend. Understandably they are both shaken and are recovering from the injuries they received, and Football Australia has offered them both support.

“Our football stadiums must be safe places for our community to enjoy the game they love and our players and match officials to ply their trade. Football Australia had a responsibility to intervene as soon as the match was called off to ensure this matter was addressed with the full regulatory and disciplinary powers at our disposal.”

Victory said in a statement that it was “devastated” by the scenes and condemned the actions of its fans. The club issued a formal apology to Glover, King and the camera operator.

Supporters had been protesting during the game to show their disapproval at the decision to take A-League grand finals to Sydney from 2023.

The A-Leagues’ current hosting strategy sees the highest-placed team stage the grand final, but a three-year hosting deal has been struck with Sydney as part of plans to develop a more engaging experience for fans.

The move was met with opposition from fans, with Victory supporters group Original Style Melbourne urging a stadium walkout prior to Saturday’s derby match. The walkout had been planned for the 20-minute mark but the situation escalated after flares were thrown on to the pitch.