Football Australia has promised that “strong sanctions” will be handed down after an Australian A-League Men’s Melbourne Derby between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory was abandoned to ensure player safety after a violent pitch invasion.
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Planning on staging a walkout in the 20th minute to protest league administrators the Australian Professional Leagues’ (APL), both sets of fans began throwing flares onto the AAMI Park playing surface before they made their exits, with one appearing to hit a camera operator for broadcaster Network Ten.
Fans had ignited flares and small fireworks throughout the preceding 20 minutes, with City fans hurling a number of projectiles onto the pitch in celebration of Aiden O’Neill’s 11th-minute opener.
That kickstarted a spiralling series of events that saw City goalkeeper Tom Glover, attempting to clear a projectile that had landed near him off the field, throw a flare off the pitch and back into the Victory supporters, which then led to a host of fans storming onto the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the violence between Nice and Marseille in 2021.
As fans stormed towards his position, Glover was then hit in the head by a metal bucket filled with sand designed to extinguish flares hurled in his direction and was rushed from the pitch with blood coming out of the side of his head.
Referee Alex King also suffered a gash to the head from the thrown bucket, while the game’s referee coach was pushed into the fence.
A Football Australia spokesperson described King as being more shaken than hurt, and he and his fellow officials were escorted to their cars by security to exit the stadium.
City officials said that Glover needed stitches and had a suspected concussion after the incident.
Both sets of players and coaching staffs, as well as the match officials, then quickly made their way off the field, while the fans that remained on the surface turned their focus to attacking the sponsor boards and goals before being marshalled off the field by members of Victoria Police’s Public Order Response Team.
After a lengthy delay, the match was then abandoned to ensure player safety, the first time that an A-Leagues fixture has been called off for such a reason.
The planned protests had been in response to APL’s decision to sell hosting rights to its next three grand finals to Sydney as part of a partnership with Destination NSW.
Demonstrations had already occurred at the A-League Men and A-League Women games that had already taken place that weekend, but all were of a peaceful nature.
“The A-League Men fixture between Melbourne City FC and Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park has been abandoned as a result of the pitch invasion by Melbourne Victory fans, and the subsequent injuries to Melbourne City FC goalkeeper Tom Glover and the match official Alex King,” an A-Leagues statement said.
“The Australian Professional League (APL) is coordinating with Football Australia regarding the ramifications of these events.”
The Australian A-Leagues are run independently from Football Australia, but the national federation remains the game’s regulator and enforces a national code of conduct.
“Following shocking scenes during the first half of the A-League Men’s match between Melbourne Victory FC and Melbourne City FC at AAMI Park on Saturday 17 December, where fans from the Melbourne Victory FC end entered the field of play, Football Australia match officials have abandoned the match in accordance with Law 5.3 of the Laws of the Game in order to protect the integrity of the match,” Football Australia said in a statement.
“Such behaviour has no place in Australian Football, with a full Football Australia investigation to commence immediately, where strong sanctions to be handed down.”