Melbourne derby abandoned after violent pitch invasion

Football Australia has promised “heavy sanctions” will be imposed after an Australian A-League men’s Melbourne derby between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory was abandoned to ensure player safety following a violent invasion of the pitch.

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Both fans planned to stage a 20th-minute strike to protest Australian Professional Leagues (APL) league administrators and began throwing flares onto the playing surface at AAMI Park before exiting, one hitting a cameraman seemed to meet broadcaster Network Ten.

Fans had set off flares and small fireworks for the previous 20 minutes, with City fans hurling a series of projectiles onto the field to celebrate Aiden O’Neill’s opening game in the 11th minute.

That set off a spiraling series of events, with City goaltender Tom Glover attempting to clear a projectile that had landed near him off the field, throwing a flare off the field and back into the Victory supporters, which then led to led to scores of fans storming the pitch in scenes reminiscent of the Nice-Marseille violence in 2021.

As fans rushed towards his position, Glover was then hit in the head by a metal bucket filled with sand, used to extinguish flares hurled in his direction, and was thrown off the field with blood spurting from the side of his head.

Referee Alex King also suffered a head laceration from the bucket thrown while the game’s refereeing coach was bumped into the fence.

A Football Australia spokesman described King as more shaken than injured and he and his colleagues were escorted by security to their cars and exit the stadium.

City officials said Glover required stitches and suspected a concussion following the incident.

Both groups of players and coaching staff, as well as the on-field officials, then quickly left the field while the fans who remained on the surface concentrated on attacking the sponsors’ rinks and goals before being escorted off the field by members of the Public Order Response Victoria Police teams.

After a long delay, the game was then abandoned to ensure player safety, the first time an A-League game had been canceled for such a reason.

The planned protests came in response to APL’s decision to sell hosting rights to Sydney for the next three major finals as part of a partnership with Destination NSW.

Demonstrations had already taken place at the A-League Men’s and A-League Women’s games earlier this weekend, but all were peaceful in nature.

“The A-League Men’s game between Melbourne City FC and Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park was abandoned due to the turf invasion by Melbourne Victory fans and the subsequent injuries to Melbourne City FC goalkeeper Tom Glover and match official Alex King. ‘” the A-Leagues said in a statement.

“The Australian Professional League (APL) is coordinating with Football Australia on the impact of these events.”

The Australian A leagues operate independently from Football Australia, but the national association remains the regulator of the game and enforces a national code of conduct.

“Following shocking scenes during the first half of the A-League Men’s game between Melbourne Victory FC and Melbourne City FC at AAMI Park on Saturday 17, the game was abandoned in accordance with Rule 5.3 of the Laws of the Game in order to protect the integrity of the game protect,” Football Australia said in a statement.

“Such behavior has no place in Australian football as a full investigation by Football Australia must be opened immediately, with severe sanctions in place.”

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