Melbourne derby abandoned after violent pitch invasion

Australian A-Leagues club Melbourne Victory have said they are “devastated” and issued a formal apology after their fans forced the abandonment of a clash with local rivals Melbourne City by staging a violent pitch invasion Football Australia has promised to lead. to “strong sanctions”.

Both City and Victory fans began organizing a joint walkout in the 20th minute to protest against league leaders the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) decision to sell the hosting rights for the men’s and women’s league finals to Sydney for the next three years. they threw flares onto the AAMI Park playing surface before leaving, with one appearing to hit a camera operator for broadcaster Network Ten.

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Fans had already lit flares and small fireworks in the previous 20 minutes as City fans threw several projectiles onto the pitch to celebrate Aiden O’Neill’s 11th minute opener.

Missiles were thrown in the 20th minute, but set off a spiraling chain of events that saw City goalkeeper Tom Glover try to clear a projectile that landed near him, throw the torch off the pitch and back to victory. supporters. This led to many fans storming the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the violence between Nice and Marseille in 2021.

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As fans approached his stand, Glover was hit in the head by a metal bucket filled with sand designed to extinguish flares thrown in his direction. He was rushed off the field by his teammates, blood coming from the side of his head.

Referee Alex King was also injured by a bucket thrown to his head when the game’s referee coach was pushed into the fence. A Football Australia spokesman described King as more shocked than hurt, and security escorted him and his colleagues to their cars to leave the stadium.

City officials said Glover required stitches and suffered a suspected concussion after the incident.

In a statement, Victory said it was shocked by the incident and that it unequivocally condemns the actions of its supporters who invaded the pitch.

“The club would like to formally apologize to Tom Glover, the match referee, Alex King and the camera operator, as well as all players, officials and those who witnessed the appalling behaviour,” it said.

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Both players and coaching staff, as well as the match referees, quickly left the pitch as the onslaught continued; The fans who remained on the surface concentrated on attacking the sponsor boards and goals before being escorted off the field by members of Victoria Police’s public order response team.

After a long delay, the match was abandoned to ensure the safety of the players, the first time an A-League match was abandoned for such a reason.

In a statement, Victoria Police said around 150 to 200 Victory supporters rushed the pitch and confirmed the injuries to Glover and King, as well as the injuries to a Network Ten cameraman when he was hit.

Police said no arrests have been made at this stage, but the investigation is ongoing.

“Melbourne Victory fans who invaded the pitch and were assaulted by a player, referee and match day broadcast staff should be met with the strongest possible sanctions,” the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, said in a statement.

“We pay tribute to the bravery of the players, club staff and referees who came out to help each other in circumstances no one should ever have to find themselves in.”

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Protests against the APL’s decision had already been seen at the men’s and women’s A-League games held over the weekend, but all were peaceful in nature.

Soccer goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who was part of the Qatari team that reached the round of 16 of the World Cup. said on social media that Australian football was about to experience its “darkest day” in light of the events.

The A-Leagues are independent from Football Australia, but the national association remains the regulator of the game and oversees national codes of conduct and referees. which means they lead the field attack investigation and sanctions. Its CEO, James Johnson, speaks to the media on Sunday morning.

“This type of behavior has no place in Australian Football and a full Football Australia investigation must be launched immediately, with strong sanctions,” the union’s statement read.

Speaking to ESPN, a Football Australia official confirmed the organization was exercising its “full” regulatory and disciplinary powers over the incident and that the public had already come forward to assist them and Victoria Police in their investigation.


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