While Messi’s World Cup victory with Argentina has been the celebration the football world needed, in Australia’s it’s somewhat been eclipsed by shocking scenes that emerged from the A-League Men Melbourne Derby on Saturday. When video footage depicted the field being stormed by fans who resorted to violent behaviour that led to Melbourne City’s goalkeeper, Thomas Glover, getting injured after being struck in the head by a metal bucket that required stitches to his face, and referee, Alex King, also sustaining injuries, most couldn’t believe it. The scenes were apocalyptic in nature, with flares firing in the background as a sea of people invaded the field.
According to a police statement, approximately 50 flares were lit inside AAMI Park, with at least three being thrown onto the field. The atmosphere of the match, although always somewhat chaotic, became explosive after Glover picked up a flare that landed on the pitch and threw it back into the stands. The action wasn’t condemned by police however, who said they were “not upset by anything at this stage when it comes to that.”
But the reaction from fans is now impossible to ignore and, according to reports from The Guardian, more than $120,000 worth of damage was caused, along with Glover, King the camera operator, and two security guards being injured amidst the stampede. As Football Australia worked with Victoria police and stadium security to identify individuals, it’s now been revealed that those involved will receive a lifetime ban for their actions, along with possible criminal charges after the violence forced the A-League Men’s derby to be abandoned.
FA’s findings suggest a 23-year-old man entered “the field of play without authorisation…with the intent to cause damage or harm,” while a 19-year-old man was also found to have entered “the field of play without authorisation” and engaged “in conduct that did or was likely to cause harm or endanger others.” Both have now been given lifetime bans.
“The actions of these two, and others who are of interest to us, are completely unacceptable and those people and their behaviours will never be welcome in our game,” said Football Australia’s chief executive, James Johnson, in a statement. As Johnson suggests, these are just two of what could be a number of bans to follow.
“Football has a zero-tolerance policy to disruptive, destructive, violent and anti-social behaviour at its sanctioned events, and it will not tolerate behaviour that has the potential to threaten the safety or security of spectators, players and officials,” he added. “These significant bans against these individuals are consistent with this position. Football Australia is working around the clock on this investigation to ensure that the scenes witnessed at AAMI Park in Melbourne are never repeated again.”
As a result of the bans, the men will now never be permitted to attend any Football Australia-sanctioned match, including A-Leagues, Australia Cup, NPL, Socceroos and Matilda games. They also can’t register as football participants. Victoria police has also charged the men in relation to the pitch invasion, with offences detailing violent disorder, discharge missile, intent to cause injury, recklessly cause injury, unlawful assault, entry to sporting competition space, disrupting a match, public nuisance and riotous behaviour.