Melbourne Victory managing director Caroline Carnegie and Football Australia chief executive James Johnson have condemned supporters that violently invaded the pitch in Saturday's Melbourne Derby, as the fallout from the shocking incident begins to be felt across Australian football.
The A-League Men's traditional Christmas derby between Victory and Melbourne City was abandoned after what Victoria Police said was 150-200 Victory supporters stormed the field in the 22nd minute, hitting City goalkeeper Tom Glover with a bucket filled with sand designed to extinguish flares.
Glover and referee Alex King were both injured by the hurled receptacle, with King suffering a gash to his head and Glover sustaining both a concussion and severe lacerations to his face. A Network Ten cameraman also suffered injuries after he was hit by a flare in the minutes before the pitch invasion.
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The keeper, who had thrown a flare that had landed near him off the field and into the Victory bay moments before the invasion, was taken to the Epworth Hospital and required stitches before being discharged in the early hours of Sunday.
Victory released a statement in the aftermath of the game saying that it was "devastated" and issuing a formal apology and speaking to media on Sunday morning, Carnegie, showing clear signs of distress at the events, said that individuals that had invaded the pitch were not welcome.
"There's no place for you in our club. There is no place in football," she said. "There's no place in the professional game at all for you. What they've done is, they've hurt the club, they've hurt the sport and they've hurt the league.
"They've hurt all of the good work that came off the back of the Socceroos campaign [at the World Cup] and we don't want that around."
Very sad day for football in Aus. Hope all the boys & officials are ok❤️ Hope that all the fans that went to actually support our beautiful game got home safe.— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) December 17, 2022
Victoria Police have launched Operation Astute to investigate the pitch invasion and while no arrests have been made, police said they already have a number of active enquiries. FA chief executive Johnson expects the investigation will move "swiftly" as the governing body works with the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) and police.
Also speaking on Sunday morning, Johnson refused to refer to those that had invaded the pitch as football fans and said that, as an independent regulator without a commercial interest with the A-Leagues, the federation was in a strong position to investigate.
The executive confirmed that alongside inquiries into the individual perpetrators of the invasion and violence, Victory would be imminently issued with a show cause notice, which the club has indicated they will cooperate with entirely.
The federation is also yet to determine if the game is to be rescheduled or remain abandoned and Johnson would not rule out that a show cause notice would also be delivered to City, whose fans also threw a number of flares and missiles onto the pitch during the fixture.
"𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗳𝗮𝗻𝘀" 𝘃𝘀. "𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝘀"— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) December 18, 2022
Football Australia CEO James Johnson says that it is unfair to brand actual fans as the same as those who invaded the pitch on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/KPHlBoNM5s
"We will be moving swiftly and we will be taking the strongest sanctions that are available," Johnson said. "This is an element that goes beyond football.
"It's those people that we will be targeting in this investigation and that we will weed out of the sport."
Victory has already been issued with one show cause notice by Football Australia in 2022 when anti-gay slurs were directed at Josh Cavallo during a game against Adelaide United in January. In April, the club was sanctioned by Football Victoria after an incident between supporters of their academy side, which plays in Victoria's NPL, and Springvale White Eagles.
In January of 2021, play in an A-League Women derby was paused for several minutes after Victory fans threw bottles at then-City keeper Teagan Micah, who took to social media on Sunday night to claim that nothing had resulted from the incident beyond an apology as the perpetrators were already subject to life bans.
EXACTLY RIGHT! @gomvfc fans throwing GLASS BOTTLES at us and all I got was an "apology" and notice that the fans were ALREADY BANNED FOR LIFE & STILL GOT IN WITH GLASS BOTTLES! Melbourne victory continues to ALLOW their fans to get away with this behaviour! It's a disgrace!! https://t.co/S3X3BzwPHt— Teagan Micah (@TeaganMicah) December 17, 2022
Neither Carnegie nor Johnson would comment on the possibility that individuals already under life bans were involved in Saturday's pitch invasion until further investigations had taken place. Johnson, however, did say that previous incidents involving Victory would likely be aggregated into any sanctions handed down.
Victory could face a financial penalty or points deduction -- or possibly have fans locked out of stadiums -- but Johnson did not comment on what sanctions FA would hand down to the club.
"I'm appalled at what happened last night," said Carnegie. "We've tried to work with our fans in a number of different ways to make sure that they can be here to support the club and do it in the right way.
"I think last night shows us that we've come to a point in time where what we've been doing probably hasn't been as successful as we'd like and we just can't condone what went on.
"Melbourne Victory has over 23,000 members and a lot of fans that sit behind that as well.
"We stand as one with those fans but the others that just displayed what they did last night, we don't want them in our club."
At the forefront of efforts to work with fans and authorities to reduce a heavy-handed and highly visible police presence at Victory games, Carnegie admitted that these efforts had been heavily damaged by Saturday. With attendance bans a possible sanction for the incident, she also said that the repercussions could be financially devastating for Victory.
"It's very difficult for us to stand there and suggest that there isn't a greater risk when we see what happened last night," she said. "What we'll be doing is trying to get the people that did the wrong thing out of the game. We don't want them around. And maybe that gives us an ability to then talk to those stakeholders about how we move forward.
"Financially it's devastating for us if we don't get our fans into a stadium.
"The people we don't want around aren't true Melbourne Victory fans because if they were, they wouldn't have hurt the club the way they did last night."
The APL released a statement that claimed the events "demonstrated that a small minority of people with criminal intent hide within our game."
"This is a watershed moment for our game that demands a zero tolerance for the incidents that we witnessed last night and the kind of people that perpetrated them," the APL statement said.
"Our clubs will work deliberately and exhaustively, hand-in hand with law enforcement agencies, and with Football Australia -- as the game's regulator -- to ensure that our game can never again be used as camouflage for criminals."
Glover will also be under the microscope for his role in the incident. City said the goalkeeper was taken to hospital on Saturday night with "severe lacerations" to the face and suffered concussion.
Glover was cleared of further trauma and returned home on Sunday morning. His return to action to be dictated by concussion protocols.
Information from AAP contributed to this report