Football Australia has hit Melbourne Victory with a record $550,000 in sanctions for bringing the game into disrepute following the riotous scenes when fans stormed the pitch during the derby with Melbourne City last December.
The sanctions total $550,000, comprising $450,000 in fines and damages and $100,000 in lost revenue for an incident FA boss James Johnson was “the worst in the history of our game”.
Victory fans invaded the pitch after City goalkeeper Tom Glover threw a flare towards them, and he was hit in the head with a bucket thrown by a fan who was one of 17 supporters subsequently banned, some for life.
Along with the financial penalty, the FFA also hit Victory with a raft of bans on fans, where they can sit, and no concessions for active fans to bring “ megaphones, drums, and flags”.
“The sanctions we have issued against Melbourne Victory are the heaviest in the A-League era,” Johnson said.
“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 17 bans issued against individuals to date, including three lifetime bans, and preliminary sanctions against Melbourne Victory.”
Victory could lose up to $100,000 in revenue from a ban on fans, as home seating will only be provided for registered club members for the remainder of the 2022-23 season and finals series.
Also, no specifically allocated club supporter seating will be provided at the club’s away games for the remainder of the season and finals.
Victory also has been handed a suspended 10-point deduction that may be triggered for “each instance of serious supporter misconduct during this season and the next three seasons”.
In a statement Victory said it would “comply with all sanctions” and was working to disband some of the active supporter groups linked with the pitch invasion, which could include hooligan groups Horda, M3 and Nomadi.
“The club would like to reiterate that the actions witnessed at the Melbourne derby in December have no place in football and the club has zero tolerance for any aggressive or anti-social behaviour,” the statement said.
Johnson was critical of the repeated incidents involving Victory over a number of years, including multiple pitch invasions, as he handed out the heaviest penalties in A-League history.
“Football Australia has found that the Melbourne Victory Football Club, through the inexcusable conduct of many individuals who entered the field of play … has committed a serious breach of our rules and regulations,” he said.
“The scenes at the Melbourne derby were the worst witnessed in Australian football during the elite era. We cannot let this happen again in our game.
“These sanctions are reflective of our desire to remove this behaviour from the sport and in particular, those that act in such a way and we want them out of our sport as we‘ve shown in our individual bans that have been issued.
“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.
“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.
“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 match, which was abandoned after 22 minutes, will be replayed in April 2023 from the 22nd minute, with the 1-0 scoreline in City’s favour standing.
Victory has seven business days to appeal Football Australia’s determination should the club elect to do so.
THE FULL LIST OF SANCTIONS FOR MELBOURNE VICTORY
• $450,000 in financial penalties split between:
A direction to the club to reimburse Melbourne City FC (home team) up to $150,000 in damages caused to the venue and equipment by the pitch invasion and other unruly supporter conduct;
A fine payable to Football Australia of $150,000;
A suspended fine of $100,000 if another pitch invasion by the club supporters occurs this season and three subsequent seasons ending 2025-26; and
• A direction to the club to pay a minimum of $50,000 towards the cost of the replay of the abandoned game in April 2023.
• Melbourne Victory FC must not sell any match day tickets in the areas ordinarily designated within their home venue at AAMI Park as active supporter bays for the remainder of the 2022-23 A-League season – including any A-League Men finals.
• The first three rows of seats behind the goal at both the North End and South End, or equivalent if a home game is not played at AAMI Park, to be taped off at all cub home games for the remainder of the 2022-23 A-League season, including any A-League Men finals.
• In addition, rows A – J of Bay 38 at the North End, or equivalent if a home game is not played at AAMI Park, will remain empty at all club home games for the remainder of the 2022-23 A-League Men season, including any A-League Men finals.
• Any tickets already sold in these areas will be cancelled. Affected ticket holders to be reallocated seating by the club to other parts of the venue in groups of up to four people or refunded. Direct families of up to six will be permitted to be seated together.
• No allocated club supporter seating at away games. Affected ticket holders need to contact the club to be reallocated seating in other parts of the venue in groups of up to four people or be refunded. Direct families of up to six will be permitted to be seated together.
• No active fan concessions for megaphones, drums, and flags for the remainder of the 2022-23 A-League Men season.
• An automatic 10-point deduction for each instance of a triggering event during this season and the next three seasons, ending at the conclusion of the 2025-26 A-League Men season. A triggering event is if a match is suspended due to club supporter conduct, the assault of coaches, players, match officials or pitch invasion by the club’s supporters.