Australian club Melbourne Victory said it was “devastated” and issued a formal apology after its fans were forced to abandon a clash with local rivals Melbourne City by launching a violent attack on the field, an incident that Australian Football promised would lead to a 10-year-old’s death. to “severe penalties”.
Planning to stage a joint 20th-minute walkout to protest to league officials over the decision by the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) to sell the hosting rights for the men’s and women’s major league finals to Sydney for the next three years, City and Victory fans set out. Flares are thrown onto the AAMI Park playing surface before they head out, and one of them appears to hit a Network Ten station’s camera operator.
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Fans had already lit flares and small fireworks over the previous 20 minutes, with City fans throwing a number of projectiles onto the pitch in celebration of Eden O’Neill’s opening goal in the 11th minute.
The rockets fired in the 20th minute, however, starting an escalating chain of events that saw City goalkeeper Tom Glover, trying to remove a shell that had landed near him off the pitch, throw a torch off the pitch and run back to victory. Supporters. This then led to a group of fans storming onto the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the violence between Nice and Marseille in 2021.
As fans converged on his post, Glover was hit in the head with a sand-filled metal bucket designed to extinguish flares thrown in his direction. He was pushed off the field by his teammates with blood oozing from the side of his head.
Referee Alex King also sustained a gash on the head from a thrown bucket, while the match referee’s coach was pushed onto the fence. A Football Australia spokesperson described King as more shaken than hurt and he and his fellow officials were escorted to their cars by security to exit the stadium.
City officials said Glover required stitches and was suspected of suffering a concussion after the accident.
Victory said in a statement that it was devastated by the incident and that it categorically condemns the actions of its supporters who stormed the pitch.
“The club would like to formally apologize to match official Tom Glover, Alex King and camera operator, as well as all players, officials and those who witnessed the appalling behaviour,” the statement read.
Both teams of players and coaching staff, as well as the match officials, were soon off the field as the pitch invasion continued; The focus of the fans who remained on the roof shifted to attacking the sponsor and goal boards before being herded off the field by members of the Victoria Police Public Order Response Team.
After a long delay, the match was abandoned to ensure the player’s safety, the first time a League One match had been canceled for this reason.
Victoria Police said, in a statement, that approximately 150-200 supporters of Al-Nasr stormed the field, confirming the injuries of Glover and King, in addition to the injuries suffered by the Ten Network photographer when he was hit by a torch.
Police said no arrests have been made at this point, but investigations are ongoing.
A statement from the Australian Footballers’ Association read: “Melbourne Victory fans who invade the pitch, resulting in assaults against a player, referee and member of the match day broadcast crew should be subject to the most severe penalties possible.”
“We appreciate the courage of the players, club staff and referees who have come to each other’s aid in circumstances that no one should ever have to face.”
Demonstrations against the EFL’s decision had already taken place at the men’s and women’s Premier League matches that had already taken place over the weekend, but they were all of a peaceful nature.
Football goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who was part of the Qatar national team that reached the round of 16 of the World Cup, he said on social media that Australian football was experiencing its “darkest day” in light of the events.
The first leagues are run independently of Australian Football, but the national federation remains the regulator of the game and enforces the national code of conduct and referees; Which means they will lead the investigation and penalties resulting from the pitch invasion. Chief Executive James Johnson is scheduled to address the media on Sunday morning.
“Such behavior has no place in Australian football, with a full investigation into Australian football immediately under way, for which severe penalties will be imposed,” a statement from the federation read.
Speaking to ESPN, an Australian Football League official confirmed that the organization would use the “full force” of its regulatory and disciplinary powers in relation to the incident and that members of the public had already come forward to assist them and Victoria Police in the investigation.