Football Australia hit Australian A-Leagues club Melbourne Victory with crowd restrictions for men’s home and away games, the first sanctions issued in response to the club’s supporters’ violent intrusion into the Melbourne Derby ground and forced stop the match.
Announced on Friday afternoon, Football Australia has ordered the club to adhere to a series of attendance restrictions to “continue to compete in the A-League Men’s [ALM] competition” as the investigation into the field invasion and message of the show’s cause continues to Victory.
The federation said “no decision has yet been made on the final sanctions against Melbourne Victory FC as part of the Show Cause process.”
The measures, which are in effect until January 15, 2023, will affect the club’s following four ALM matches: vs. Western United on Boxing Day, away to Central Coast Mariners on New Year’s Eve, home to Brisbane Roar on January 6 and away to Adelaide United on January 14.
Only Western members or supporters who purchased a ticket before sales ended on Friday morning, or those who receive one of 1,000 free tickets given to Western to be distributed to people on a list of persons pre-approved by Football Australia , will be allowed to take part in the defending champions’ clash with Victory at AAMI Park.
That game is a United home game, and active away bays will be closed, cordoned off and covered with tarpaulin.
Victory cannot sell tickets for the home game against the Roar, only valid club members can attend. Home and away support bays are closed and the first four rows of seats behind each goal are covered.
Away bays will also be closed and cordoned off for Victory’s out-of-state away games against the Mariners and Adelaide, and only members and supporters of the hosts will be allowed to enter the venue. Victory is tasked with discouraging its supporters from traveling and attending.
Implementation and enforcement of the imposed measures is the responsibility of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) competition administrators, participating A-League clubs and venues. Further sanctions will be imposed if the federation determines that the sanctions have not been complied with.
Victory will also have to bear the cost of refunds for tickets that can no longer be honored.
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“As we continue our very thorough investigation into the unforgivable scenes witnessed at the Melbourne Derby, Football Australia has issued Melbourne Victory with a series of stringent sanctions that must be enforced to prevent their participation in both the A-League Men’s and A League Women’s competitions until a final show is determined,” said Football Australia chief executive James Johnson.
“These sanctions take effect immediately, starting with Melbourne Victory’s A-League Men’s match on Boxing Day away to Western United, and follow sanctions issued against individuals earlier this week as part of a package of sanctions in response to the incidents witnessed at the Melbourne Derby last weekend These measures are an essential step for Football Australia as it considers further sporting and financial sanctions that may apply to Melbourne Victory in the process of determining the cause of the show.
“Football Australia does not wish to penalize football fans during this time; however, our priority is to ensure the safety and enjoyment of everyone in the venue on match days and that unacceptable spectator behavior is never repeated at any football match or event. We believe this measures will achieve this.
“Football Australia would like to acknowledge the partnership of the APL and Melbourne Victory over the past week, and we are confident this will continue as our investigation continues, with a determination to impose sanctions in due course.”
Around 150 Victory supporters stormed the pitch and forced the derby encounter with Melbourne City last Saturday, injuring City goalkeeper Tom Glover, referee Alex King and two security guards.
A bucket filled with sand was thrown into Glover’s head during the invasion, also hitting King, and the goalkeeper required hospital treatment after facial cuts and a concussion.
A Network Ten cameraman was also injured by a flare dropped in the minutes before the invasion.
An estimated $150,000 worth of damage was caused to AAMI Park as a result of the invasion, and it is believed that about 80 flares or fireworks were set off by both groups of fans in the previous 20 minutes.
Some 29 people have been arrested over the field invasion and 24 have been charged with various offenses by Victoria Police’s Operation Astute, including four men believed to be responsible for the attacks which resulted in injuries.
Others face a range of offenses such as disrupting a match, violent disorder, dissolute conduct and firing flares. In total, some 36 people have been identified by police as part of their investigation, with further arrests expected in the coming days and weeks.
Working with authorities, Football Australia has issued 10 suspensions to individuals as a result of the pitch invasion – two for life and eight ranging in length from five to 20 years.
These bans will prevent the sanctioned persons from attending football matches sanctioned by Football Australia, including national team matches, A-Leagues matches, the Australia Cup and member organized competitions such as the National Premier Leagues and State Leagues.
They also cannot register as a footballer, such as a player, coach or referee.