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Melbourne Victory hit with stiff sanctions following crowd disorder

Featured image credit: Storm machine/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Storm machine/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Football Australia has imposed heavy financial sanctions on Melbourne Victory after the club’s supporters invaded the pitch during last month’s derby match against Melbourne City, leading to a player and the referee being injured.

The sport’s governing body in Australia has found that Victory brought the game into disrepute following the “unacceptable” actions of its fans during the match at AAMI Park on December 17.

The club was issued a show cause notice by Football Australia to provide evidence of why it should not face serious sanctions. Football Australia had already banned Victory from selling tickets and imposed stadium restrictions, and the additional sanctions announced today (Tuesday) represent the heaviest in the A-League era.

Financial sanctions totalling A$550,000 (£311,000/€352,000/$378,000) have been handed out, comprising A$450,000 in fines and damages and A$100,000 in lost revenue due to the sporting sanctions imposed.

The sporting sanctions require Victory to block access to select seating behind the goals and otherwise restrict seating in the north end of AAMI Park to registered club members for the remainder of the season. For the remainder of Victory’s away games this season, no club supporter seating will be allocated.

The sanctions also include a suspended 10-point deduction, which may be triggered for each instance of serious supporter misconduct during this season and the next three seasons, ending at the conclusion of the 2025-26 A-League season.

In addition, Football Australia has ruled that the December match between Victory and City, which was abandoned after 22 minutes, will be replayed in April 2023 from the 22nd minute. The recommencement scoreline will be 1-0 to City, which was the score when the original fixture was abandoned.

Football Australia will also establish and manage a taskforce that will include various stakeholders and experts from the Victoria and NSW Police, as well as hosting venues. The taskforce will seek to curb flare use and reduce entry of flares into venues, as well as explore areas of improvement for security and policing venues.

For the return of active supporters in the 2023-24 A-League season, Victory is required to work with Football Australia and Australia Professional Leagues to implement determined measures, which could include a requirement to ensure all active supporters are valid club members, or allocated ticketing where tickets are sold in designated active supporter areas.

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said: “Football Australia has found that the Melbourne Victory Football Club, through the inexcusable conduct of many individuals who entered the field of play from the Melbourne Victory Active Supporters section at the Melbourne Derby on 17 December 2022, has committed a serious breach of our rules and regulations.

“The sanctions we have issued against Melbourne Victory are the heaviest in the A-League era. These sanctions are reflective of our desire to remove this behaviour, and those that perpetuate it, from our game. They also form part of a broader response to this incident which has seen 17 bans issued against individuals to date, including three lifetime bans, and preliminary sanctions against Melbourne Victory.”

The club confirmed in a statement that it will comply with all sanctions handed out by Football Australia.

Three men were initially charged after the incident during the match at AAMI Park, which serves as the home of Victory and City. The match was abandoned after 22 minutes with City, the home side, 1-0 up after Victory fans entered the field of play and assaulted home goalkeeper Tom Glover.

Footage of the pitch invasion showed Glover being hit by a metal bucket that was allegedly thrown by a Victory supporter. He suffered a concussion and severe lacerations to the face. Football Australia later issued a further eight bans and this number has since risen to 17.

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

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.