Police have released photos of eight soccer fans who may be able to assist their inquiries into how the Melbourne A-League derby descended into shocking scenes and was forced to be abandoned.
Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover is suffering from concussion and had to be taken to hospital to get stitches after rival Victory fans stormed the pitch and hit him and a match official with a metal bucket full of sand just 20 minutes into Saturday night’s clash at AAMI Park.
A television cameraman was also injured after he was struck on the back of the head by a flare.
On Sunday night, Victoria Police launched a public appeal calling on spectators who attended the match to come come forward with more details about the mass pitch invasion involving 150 fans.
Acting superintendent Jason Goddard condemned the ‘shocking, disgraceful’ behaviour and said he expected police to be ‘knocking on doors very soon’.
Police would like to speak to the man in the hat about Saturday night’s A-League game
Victoria Police has set up Operation Astute, a dedicated group of detectives who will investigate a string of incidents that took place.
Investigators have released a number of images of men they believe might be able to assist with their enquiries into several incidents that occurred in the night.
Within hours of the images being released, one fan has already been identified after he made himself known to police.
They include ripping of flares, assaults, criminal damage and invading the field of play.
As Australian soccer reels from the astonishing scenes at the A-League derby on Saturday, Melbourne Victory boss Caroline Carnegie has admitted the club is ‘devastated’ as they look to distance themselves from the fans involved.
The lawyer, who has been the managing director at the club since 2015, was at a loss to explain the latest example of poor behaviour from Victory fans when addressing the media on Sunday.
Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover is suffering from concussion and had to be taken to hospital to get stitches after Victory fans stormed the pitch and hit him with a metal bucket full of sand that was on-hand to contain the myriad of flares that had been set off.
It’s left Australian football in a state of shock, and the Victory boss appeared to be somewhat the same as she attempted to explain what on earth had happened at AAMI Park before the game was eventually abandoned.
Fans storm onto the pitch from the Melbourne Victory supporters area during Saturday night’s derby at AAMI Park
Melbourne Victory managing director Caroline Carnegie addressed the media on Sunday morning and said everyone at the club was shocked and saddened by the events at the derby
‘It is all pretty raw. We are pretty devastated at Melbourne Victory at the moment,’ Carnegie said as she addressed reporters on Sunday morning.
‘I also want to make it very clear that in no way, shape or form does Melbourne Victory advocate for what happened last night – in fact, we condemn it – and there is no possible excuse for players, cameramen, referees coming to work and not being safe.
‘There is no place at our club, no place in the game, and no place in the league for that sort of behaviour.
‘What they’ve done is they’ve hurt the club, the sport and the league, and hurt all the good work that came off the back of the Socceroos’ (World Cup) campaign, and we don’t want that around,’ said Carnegie.
The Victory fanbase have unfortunately developed an unwanted reputation of poor behaviour; though to be fair as usual it is the small minority ruining it for the behaved majority.
The club was given a $5000 fine last season for horrific homophobic abuse from fans of gay Adelaide United star Josh Cavallo, while in 2016 they had a suspended three-point deduction and $50,000 fine imposed for repeated examples of flares and bottles thrown onto the field.
Another City goalkeeper, this time A-League Women’s shotstopper Tegan Micah, copped the wrath of Victory fans when she had glass bottles and vile abuse thrown at her last year.
When asked why the myriad of flare and bottle-throwing incidents continue to occur, alongside other examples at National Premier League (NPL) level, Carnegie was at a loss.
Fans were seen trampling over the LED advertising boards to get to the AAMI Park pitch
Many flares were let off during the game and fans continued to throw and let them off as they took to the field
‘It is a question I would love to be able to answer. I’m disgraced and appalled at what happened last night,’ she said.
‘We’ve (Melbourne Victory) tried to work with our fans in a number of different ways to make sure that they can be here to support the club and do it in the right way.
‘(But) I think last night shows us that we’ve come to a point in time where what we’ve been doing hasn’t been as successful as we would like and we just can’t condone what has gone on,’ said Carnegie.
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.
It originally only expected the club would make a peaceful protest at the A-League’s decision to sell the grand final to Sydney for three years
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.
Fans, from the Victory area, 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 concussion, while King was also injured in the skirmish. A cameraman had already been injured by one of the many flares that had been let off.
Carnegie admitted perhaps it was a little ‘silly’ Glover threw the flare back into the crowd, but said the main issue was those that stormed the field.
Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover picks up a flare that had been thrown onto the pitch. What followed has been described as ‘Australian football’s darkest day’
‘I think it would be better if we weren’t throwing flares onto the pitch in the first place and that (Glover being hit) wouldn’t have occurred,’ she said.
‘Maybe it was a little bit silly on Tom’s behalf (throwing the flare back), but there is no defending what happened last night in any way, shape or form.
‘I think without condoning what happened in relation to flares in the first place, the biggest issue we have is jumping on the pitch and having a player who got hurt, and a cameraman who got hurt, and a referee who got hurt who have a right to turn up and do their job without any fear,’ said Carnegie.
They were unbelievable scenes at AAMI Park.
It was hard to digest what was happening at a major Australian sporting match, and Carnegie admitted it wasn’t something the club, or even police, anticipated despite the fan group’s reputation for insolence.
The game was suspended after Victory fans stormed the pitch and forced players and match officials to switftly retreat to the dressing rooms as hooligans climbed the goal posts
‘Our understanding of what would happen last night was that all fans, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City … would be leaving the stadium at the 20-minute mark,’ she said, something other A-League fans have done this round in protest at the league’s grand final decision.
‘That’s the preparations that were in play, to be ready to make sure that they left in an orderly manner. No one expected what happened last night.
‘We’ll work with Victoria Police first, there’s obviously a police investigation, then we’ll work with Football Australia in relation to what happens as a result,’ said Carnegie.
For their part, many Victory fans condemned the disgraceful actions of those who stormed the field.
The main supporter group – Original Style Melbourne – said in a statement they had merely wanted to walk out in protest after 20 minutes and were ‘sad, angry and frustrated’ at what transpired.
Police officers stand in front of Victory supporters after they pitch was cleared. Seen clearly in front of them is the destroyed LED advertising signage which the fans stormed over
‘Our protest yesterday was intended to unite all fans. A vital element of the campaign against the APL decision, was that the walkout and protest remained peaceful, so as not to take away and distract from our argument,’ the group said in a statement.
‘OSM leadership fully understand the genuine sadness, anger and frustration at what happened last night. The events which transpired, although uncontrollable, happened under our watch, and we take full responsibility for that.
‘Therefore, we apologise to the Victory fan base, players, and staff who have constantly backed us. Football fans in this country remaining united and peaceful in their protest, was, and still is, the only path forward,’ the fan group’s statement read.
The club will face big sanctions, and many fans may also face the long arm of the law.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson confirmed Victory would be receiving a Show Cause notice, but they wouldn’t comment further on what the possible punishments would be while the police investigation was still ongoing.
Johnson also said the club’s prior record of poor crowd behaviour would be taken into account.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson confirmed on Sunday that Victory will be facing sanctions as a result of Saturday night’s Melbourne derby
‘A show-cause process will be opened with Melbourne Victory and they will be receiving a show-cause notice as soon as possible,’ he said in a press conference on Sunday morning.
‘There have been other occasions, we know that, and they will be an aggravating factor as we work through the show-cause process. There’s no other suspended disciplinary action that I’m aware of.
‘But what I will say is we’ll be working through that today and we’ll be moving forward as quickly and swiftly as possible.’
Socceroos and A-League goalkeeper Danny Vukovic called Saturday ‘the darkest day in Australian football’ in a Twitter post, and no doubt there are many more dark days ahead for Victory as they try to move past this crisis.