FA to take ‘strong action’ after Melbourne fan violence

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Football Australia has vowed to take strong and swift action with harsh punishments after an A-League soccer match between rivals Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory was abandoned Saturday after fans invaded the field and attacked City goalkeeper Tom Glover.

Video on social media shows a fan throwing a metal bucket with a white substance at Glover, who was taken off the field dazed and bleeding.

Match referee Alex King was also injured, sustaining a head cut in the same incident, while a television cameraman was also injured by a flare thrown from the stands.

“We will be moving swiftly and we will be taking the strongest sanctions that are available,” FA chief executive James Johnson told reporters on Sunday. “This is an element that goes beyond football. It’s an element that infiltrates our game and that really try to ruin it for the two million people that love our sport.

“It’s those people that we will be targeting in this investigation and that we will weed out of the sport.”

Johnson said that Victory will be issued with a show cause notice and FA is also considering the outcome of the match, which City led 1-0 at just after the 20-minute mark of the game at AAMI Stadium when fans from the Melbourne Victory area of the stadium rushed the pitch. The match was stopped and then a short time later abandoned by officials.

A Victoria state police investigation is ongoing, though no arrests had been reported by Sunday, while pitch invaders face possible lifetime bans.

There had been a tense atmosphere to start the match with both sets of fans planning to leave the game at the 20-minute mark as part of a protest toward the Australian Professional Leagues, which had recently awarded the next three grand final matches to Sydney in a deal with the New South Wales state government.

Both sets of fans started derogatory chants immediately after the preceding A-League Women’s game finished. Victory and City fans also unfurled banners, referring to their displeasure with the APL and its decision on the championship matches.

Both sets of fans had been throwing flares on the field but the situation escalated when a flare appeared to hit a television cameraman. Glover later picked up another flare off the ground and threw it back into the stands.

Fans then rushed the pitch and Glover was struck by the metal bucket, which is used to dispose of flares. Glover started bleeding from a head wound and was taken from the field, along with players from both teams.

Team officials later said that Glover had received stitches to his head wound at the ground before being taken to hospital where he was cleared of further injury.

Melbourne Victory managing director Caroline Carnegie said the club is ‘devastated’ by the incident.

“I’m disgraced and appalled at what happened last night,” Carnegie told reporters on Sunday. “We’ve tried to work with our fans in a number of different ways to make sure that they can be here to support the club and do it in the right way.

“I think last night shows us that we’ve come to a point in time where what we’ve been doing probably hasn’t been as successful as we’d like and we just can’t condone what went on.

Victory could face a financial penalty or points deduction – or possibly have fans locked out of stadiums – but Johnson would not be drawn on what sanctions Football Australia would hand down to the club before the investigation had concluded.

The incident came two weeks after Australia advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar before losing 2-1 to Argentina, in its strongest ever performance at the tournament.

Socceroos World Cup squad members Craig Goodwin, who scored the opening goal in Australia’s 4-1 defeat to France at the tournament, and Danny Vukovic both expressed their dismay through Twitter posts.

“Extremely disappointing. Regardless of what has happened, this is not the way to respond and only gives the game a bad look.” Goodwin said.

Vukovic said: “Our game is in tatters … an absolute disgrace what happened tonight. Irreparable damage done. Darkest day for football in Australia.”

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