Football Australia have slapped Melbourne Victory with a record fine and threatened to dock them ten competition points after finding the club brought the game into disrepute with the violent disruptions of the club’s fans in the A-League match against Melbourne City in December.
That night approximately 150 Victory supporters stormed the AAMI Park pitch, unleashing 80 flares or fireworks and forcing the abandonment of the Melbourne Derby. City goalkeeper Tom Glover left the field bleeding from a head wound and referee Alex King, two security guards, and a camera operator were injured by 80 flares and fireworks that caused $AUD 150,000 damage in 22 minutes of mayhem.
Twenty-nine people were arrested over the pitch invasion and Victoria Police’s Operation Astute charged 24 people with various offences such as disrupting a match, violent disorder, riotous behaviour, and discharging flares. Thirty-six people in total were identified by police and more arrests are expected.
After considering Victory’s response to the issued show cause notice issued in December and the measures since taken by the club, Football Australia penalised the club $550,000, – $450,000 in fines and damages and $100,000 in lost revenue.
In imposing the historic fine, Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, decried the scenes at the Melbourne Derby as “the worst witnessed in Australian football during the A-League era.”
“Football Australia has found that the Melbourne Victory Football Club, through the inexcusable conduct of many individuals who entered the field of play from the Melbourne Victory Active Supporters section at the Melbourne Derby on 17 December 2022, has committed a serious breach of our rules and regulations,” said Johnson.
“The sanctions we have issued against Melbourne Victory are the heaviest in the A-League era. These sanctions are reflective of our desire to remove this behaviour, and those that perpetuate it, from our game. They also form part of a broader response to this incident which has seen seventeen bans issued against individuals to date, including three lifetime bans, and preliminary sanctions against Melbourne Victory.
Johnson said Football Australia was was determined to ensure there was never a repeat of the conduct.
“The field of play is sacred and the safety of our players and match officials is paramount. Those individuals that illegally entered the field of play, caused damage, and verbally and physically assaulted players and officials, crossed the line. We have worked closely with Victoria Police to identify these individuals and will continue to do so to ensure those that those that display anti-social and criminal behaviour at football events are not involved in our game in any way.
“I can sympathise with the vast majority of fans and the broader football community who were sickened and hurt by the actions of those individuals,” said Johnson. “The sanctions imposed on Melbourne Victory are a necessary step to ensure we create an environment where we place football first, and our community can enjoy matches.”
The sanctions require Melbourne Victory to block access to select seating behind the goals and restrict seating in the north end of AAMI Park to registered club members for the remainder of the 2022-23 A-League Men season.
A suspended ten (10) point deduction will be triggered for any instance of serious supporter misconduct during this season and the next three seasons, ending at the conclusion of the 2025-26 A-League Men’s season.
Football Australia has also ordered the abandoned Melbourne City-Melbourne Victory Derby to be replayed in April from the 22nd minute. The recommencement score line will be Melbourne City 1-0 Melbourne Victory.
Football Australia also announced its intention to establish a taskforce with the Victoria and NSW Police to develop measures to curb flare use and reduce entry of flares into venues, explore areas of improvement for security and policing venues, review supporter liaison and Marshall training use, review of active support ticket and member requirements and the review of supporter marches pre-match.
Melbourne Victory have seven business days to appeal the determination.
Victory managing director Caroline Carnegie said the massive fines and sanctions imposed for the pitch invasion would likely force the club to rethink its relationship with Original Style Melbourne, Victory’s most notable fan group. OSM have been heavily criticised since the invasion and asked to disband by the club’s fan base.
“I know [the sanctions are] tough,” Carnegie said. “It’s not what we want. We want our members and fans in the stadium but first and foremost, we want everybody to feel safe about coming to football matches and we understand that the sanctions are part of the healing process to get there, which means we really need all of our people to do the right thing, not try and circumvent what’s been put in place.
“Let’s cop what we’ve got, work together with the other football stakeholders and move forward as a game.”