Football Australia (FA) boss James Johnson says he is ‘horrified and irritated’ with the scenes witnessed at Saturday’s night chaotic A-League Melbourne derby – but insists the game is ‘very safe’.
The sport’s governing body oversees the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) – which runs the top-tier competitions – and Johnson, the CEO, moved to assure fans that the horrifying incident was not ‘a reflection of the broader game’ in a press conference on Sunday morning.
Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover had to be taken to hospital and received stitches after being smashed in the face with a bucket full of sand, as the Derby descended into chaos and was eventually abandoned.
They were scenes never seen before in Australian football, which has developed quite the violent reputation over the years; and Johnson refused to even call the members of the crowd who took part as fans.
The game was suspended after Victory fans stormed the pitch and forced players and match officials to swiftly retreat to the dressing rooms
‘I’m horrified, I’m irritated, I’m angry with the scenes we witnesses last night. We have in the case of some individuals – I will not refer to them as football fans – who have confronted a player and they met official individuals who have wilfully disrupted led individuals who have invaded faded the pitch,’ he said in Sunday’s press conference.
‘Football is very safe. We saw in the other games there were peaceful protests … I don’t think it’s a reflection on the broader game.’
Football Australia CEO James Johnson has condemned the ‘individuals’ involved in Saturday night’s chaotic scenes, and is refusing to call them fans
Furious with the A-League’s decision to send the next three grand finals to Sydney, both sets of fans were planning to stage a mass walkout on the 20th minute to vent their discontent with the decision.
They had earlier chanted ‘f*** the APL’ while unfurling banners pre-game and during the match, and throwing flares onto the playing arena.
But the situation escalated when a flare from the Victory active area hit the cameraman, then exploded when Glover picked up another flare off the ground and threw it back into the stands.
Thomas Glover was left bloodied and the game at AAMI Park was swiftly abandoned during the violent and chaotic scenes
Fans, primarily Victory ones, then stormed onto the pitch and Glover and referee Alex King were both struck by the metal bucket, which is filled with sand and used to dispose of flares.
Glover was left with a cut head, requiring stitches, and a suspected concussion while King had a gash on his eyebrow. A Network 10 cameraman was earlier injured when he was hit by a flare.
Johnson confirmed Melbourne Victory – who have previously been sanctioned by FA and Football Victoria over crowd behaviour – would receive a show cause notice by the organisation.
He also reiterated that the APL’s decision to give hosting rights solely to Sydney, which has blown up in a big way, was in no way a justification for the events at AAMI Park.
A protest planned against A-League’s plans to move the Grand Final to Sydney turned violent as fans stormed the field and threw flares
Fans at all A-League clubs staged protests against the A-League giving exclusive grand final hosting rights to Sydney…but Victory’s turned violent after they held up these banners
Football Australia boss James Johnson confirmed on Sunday that Melbourne Victory would be receiving a Show Cause notice
‘We’ll look at facts, we’ll look at it objectively and we’ll make a decision that’s in the best interests of the game,’ Johnson said in regards to what punishment Victory will face.
‘FA does not run the business of the APL or the event of the APL, FA’s role is on disciplinary issues, ethics proceedings, licencing, setting calendar, not to get involved in business decisions.
‘There is no justification for the behaviour we saw last night. I don’t care about people that think the decision for the GF is wrong or right. Anyone who thinks that justifies behaviour is completely out of touch.
‘People that behave like this, I don’t call them fans and I won’t call them fans. What is important is our response – that is simple, there is no place in our sport for that behaviour and people that act like that will be weeded out and weeded out quickly,’ said Johnson in the Sunday morning press conference.
Fans stormed the pitch on the 21st minute, running right over LED advertising boards and passed helpless and overcome security guards
Players from both teams were rushed down the tunnel as the events unfolded, while fans were swinging from the goal at the Victory end of the ground.
The game was suspended for close to 45 minutes before officials made the decision to abandon the fixture.
‘Our game is in tatters. An absolute disgrace what happened tonight,’ Socceroos and Central Coast goalkeeper Danny Vukovic said on Twitter.
‘Cannot believe we are here after such an amazing WC and so much potential to see our game grow. Irreparable damage done. Darkest day for football in Australia.’
Fellow Socceroos and A-League star Craig Goodwin, who spoke out against the plans to relocate the Grand Final to Sydney this week, said: ‘Extremely disappointing. Regardless of what has happened, this is not the way to respond and only gives the game a bad look.’
Many fans lit flares in the stands at AAMI Park on Saturday night
Johnson was keen to point out that he felt the sport as a whole in Australia was trending in a brilliant direction – and shouldn’t be tarred by the poor fan behaviour on Saturday.
‘This pitch invasion has nothing to do with the rising ground swell of our sport. It has nothing to do with the 2 mill people who support our game week in, week out,’ he said.
‘It’s an element who has infiltrated our sport and try to ruin it for the 2 mill people that love our sport.
The A-League plays a role in the broader ecosystem of the sport. I see us as a football nation … leagues do play a role. I don’t think though that a group of individuals that took part in unacceptable behaviour last night is a reflection on the broader sport
‘It would be unfair if the sport is targeted rather than the individuals involved,’ said Johnson.