Protests turn violent in horror day for Australian Football

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What was supposed to be a decisive show of solidarity between two of the A-Leagues’ most bitter rivals, descended into anarchy when violent thugs entered the field of play. Melbourne City Goalkeeper Tom Glover, match official, Alex King and a Network 10 camera operator were all attacked.

Saturday evening’s box office fixture started off with a fantastic atmosphere that saw Melbourne City take the lead early with a superb team goal put away by Aiden O’Neill.

But ultimately, that’s where the good times ended for the derby as not 10 minutes later, AAMI Park looked more like a warzone than a football stadium. When attendees sitting in Melbourne Victory’s active support section intruded onto the field of play.

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Not long after the incident occurred the APL made the difficult decision to abandon the Melbourne derby citing player safety as the main contributing factor.

Melbourne Victory released the following statement following the incident:

“Tonight, Melbourne Victory Football Club is devastated. The Club unequivocally condemns the actions of fans at Saturday night’s match against Melbourne City at AAMI Park. The actions that occurred, that saw spectators enter the pitch and injure a Melbourne City FC player, an official and a Network Ten cameraman, are not acceptable under any circumstance and have no place in football. The security and welfare of everyone involved in a football match is paramount and the Club will not accept this behaviour.

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“The club would like to formally apologise to Tom Glover, match official, Alex King and the camera operator as well as all players, officials and those who witnessed the appalling behaviour. This conduct will not be tolerated and the Club, along with AAMI Park and Victoria Police, will undertake a full investigation into the incident. Melbourne Victory would like to reiterate there is no place in football for what was witnessed tonight.”

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Later in the evening the APL released a brief statement.

“The Isuzu UTE 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.

“The Australian Professional League (APL) is coordinating with Football Australia (FA) regarding the ramifications of these events.

“A further statement will follow,” said the APL.

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Football Australia, which still operates as a regulatory body for the A-Leagues, also released a statement.

“Such behaviour has no place in Australian Football, with a full Football Australia investigation to commence immediately, where strong sanctions will be handed down,” said the FA

Glover, was hit in the head with a metal bin filled with sand utilized to extinguish the flares thrown on the pitch, was transported to the Epworth Hospital, where he was diagnosed with “a concussion and severe lacerations to the face.”

In a press conference on Sunday morning CEO of Football Australia, James Johnson, made a statement to journalists before taking questions.

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“I’m horrified and angry with the scenes witnessed at AAMI Park last night. We have a case of some individuals – I will not refer to them as fans of football, only as individuals – who have confronted and attacked a player and a match official. We’ve had individuals who have willfully destructed LED, we’ve had individuals who have willfully invaded the pitch and we’ve had flares thrown onto the pitch and consequently a match has been abandoned due to the integrity of the match

“An investigation has been opened and we’re looking at three separate focuses of the investigation. The first is what happens with the result of last night’s match. The second is a show cause process that we’ve opened with Melbourne Victory, and they will be issued with a show cause letter as soon as possible. That will not close the door to a show cause letter to Melbourne City, but at this point in time we won’t be doing so because we haven’t yet come across evidence that would support us doing so. The third course of investigation will be into the individuals who we are seeking to name, identify and to sanction. We will be moving swiftly, and we will be taking the strongest sanctions available,” said Johnson.

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What comes next now is anyone’s guess. After an amazing performance by the Socceroos at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, any goodwill that football had earned will absolutely be lost.

Football has always been stuck under the weight of the ginormous AFL media machine, especially in the epicentre of the incident, Victoria.

However, those clouds were clearing. This was demonstrated by the scenes all around the country at live viewing sites for the Socceroo matches. This was most notable at Federation Square in Melbourne, which saw massive crowds come and support the players, in an event that was ultimately incident free.

This has always been the story with Australian Football – one step forward, two steps back.

All we can wish for now is a successful 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to hopefully gain back any ill will we have lost over this disturbing incident.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Caydn Foley
Football Fanatic. Journalism student hoping to make this a career. Covering Melbourne City for the 22/23 A-Leagues season.

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