The A-League's Melbourne derby had to be abandoned on Saturday night after Victory fans invaded the pitch and assaulted City goalkeeper Tom Glover. In shocking scenes that have been described as the darkest day in Australian football, dozens of fans stormed onto the pitch after Glover tossed a flare into the stands that had found its way onto the field.
Glover could be seen with a large gash on his face after he appeared to be hit with a metal bucket from a spectator. Referee Alex King was also injured in the chaos, while a Network 10 cameraman was earlier injured when he was hit by a flare.
The ugly scenes came after a week of outrage in Australian football after the Australian Professional Leagues made the controversial decision to sell the men's and women's grand finals to Sydney for the next three years. Fans were expected to stage protests and walk-outs at this weekend's games, but no one could have predicted the shocking scenes that unfolded at AAMI Park.
Football Australia said it plans to use the full force of its powers to sanction the individuals involved. "Such behaviour has no place in Australian Football, with a full Football Australia investigation to commence immediately, where strong sanctions will be handed down," a late-night statement said.
Victory and City fans had both planned to walk out of the match at the 20-minute mark as part of a protest towards the APL, and had been throwing flares onto the field since kick-off. But the situation exploded when Glover picked up a flare off the ground and threw it back into the stands.
After Glover and King were assaulted, players from both teams were rushed down the tunnel and off the field, while fans were swinging from the goal posts at the Victory end of the ground. The game was suspended for approximately 45 minutes before it was abandoned altogether.
The incident has been widely condemned throughout Australian football and the world, with Matildas captain and Chelsea superstar Sam Kerr writing on Twitter it was a "very sad day for football in Aus". Melbourne Victory said they were 'devastated' and confirmed the club would undertake a full investigation alongside AAMI Park and Victoria Police.
"The club unequivocally condemns the actions of fans at Saturday night's match against Melbourne City at AAMI Park," the club said. "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. Melbourne Victory would like to reiterate there is no place in football for what was witnessed tonight."
The players union - Professional Footballers Australia - welcomed the decision to abandon the match and said they had met with both sets of players to offer support. "The Melbourne Victory fans who stormed the pitch, resulting in the assault of a player, a referee and a member of match day broadcast staff, should be subjected to the strongest possible sanctions," they said. "We acknowledge the courage of players, club staff and referees who came to the aid of each other in circumstances that no one should ever be exposed to."
Football world in shock over 'disgusting' A-League drama
Socceroos and Central Coast goalkeeper Danny Vukovic wrote on Twitter: "Our game is in tatters. An absolute disgrace what happened tonight. Irreparable damage done. Darkest day for football in Australia."
Former Adelaide United striker and Network 10 pundit Bruce Djite told AAP it was hard to see how Australian football could recover. Djite said FA needed to "throw the library at Melbourne Victory."
Matildas goalkeeper Teagan Micah had glass bottles and abuse hurled at her by a group of Victory fans when she was playing against them for City in January 2021. Micah said she wasn't surprised by the latest incident and said all she'd received was an "apology".
"Melbourne Victory continues to ALLOW their fans to get away with this behaviour!" she said. "It's a disgrace!!"
Others pointed out that the actions of fans had undone all the good work the Socceroos had done for football in Australia during their run to the final 16 at the World Cup in Qatar.
Disgrace. Embarrassment. If that’s your reaction we don’t want you anywhere near the game.
Ban them for life. Take @gomvfc points.
Shame on you!
— Rob Cornthwaite (@robcornthwaite) December 17, 2022
My heart is breaking for our game. How could those idiots do that? The mist disgraceful thing I’ve seen in our game.
— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) December 17, 2022
Football in Australia is self destructing on national television.
It’s beyond infuriating. Just disgusting and unforgivable.
We don’t deserve the game we love if this is how disrespectful and despicable we are as fans.#MelbDerby
— Francis Leach (@SaintFrankly) December 17, 2022
From the moral high ground to the gutter in a few minutes of madness. Those Victory fans should never be allowed to enter an Australian football ground again.#ALeague
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) December 17, 2022
By all means protest, but invading the pitch and assaulting a player and referee is absolutely unacceptable. Complete thuggery and a disgrace. The wave we rode with the Socceroos is, sadly, a distant memory #MelbDerby #MCYvMVC
— Tristan Foenander (@TFoenander) December 17, 2022
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