Melbourne Victory Pitch Invasion: Football Australia fines disappoint

Melbourne Victory is at rock bottom and a historic fine is adding to the pain. But, writes ADAM PEACOCK, things could and should have been worse.

The worst incident in Australian professional football history deserved the toughest sanction.

That didn’t happen.

The punishment imposed by Football Australia fell a step short.

The biggest fine ever in Australian football will decimate Victory’s tally this season, but to have escaped the immediate loss of competition points feels like a disappointment.

The shameful scenes of 17 December, broadcast and repeated around the world, deserved Football Australia’s strongest reactions and a locked 10 point deduction is not.

It only triggers in the event of another pitch invasion.

Surely even the stupid aren’t that stupid.

No penalty or sanction will heal the physical scar on Thomas Glover’s face or the game’s metaphorical scar, but docking points would at least have sent a loud, clear message to Victory’s violent fringe of supporters that their actions were accompanied by the most dramatic consequences possible.

This is how FA boss James Johnson explained the reasoning.

“We went back to what ultimately matters and that is the integrity of our competitions,” he said.

“We felt that taking points now would not be the most effective way to discourage fans who will be attending future games from stopping this behavior.”

This aligns with a subliminal message that FA has been sending out for some time.

Fan self-regulation.

The Victory appeared to do their part on Tuesday by announcing their intention to disband the troubled active support groups behind the pitch invasion. It feels like a righteous step. However, instead of Original Style Melbourne, another group will form. The true indication of Victory’s ability to communicate clearly, and for its active supporters to listen and self-regulate, will not be known until then.

Johnson was at pains to point out that the vast majority of Victory fans are good people who go to games for the right reason. Supporters of other A-League teams have shown how to disapprove of the APL’s decision to peacefully sell the rights to the grand final without losing intent.

strikes. No performances.

They knew where the line was: the fence.

When 150 jerks at the Melbourne Derby decided to jump over it and throw flares over it, when it came to Victory’s supporters (and a few City jerks throwing flares) self-regulation was exposed as well-meaning but ultimately toothless. Gesture.

There’s long been a small group of Victory fans who crave anarchy, whether it’s at A-Leagues games or local NPL games. They idolize ultras groups from Europe and South America, some of which are in control of what goes on at a club.

It cannot and will not work in Australia.

The result of the December 17 pitch invasion will be increased policing at matches. It will be overkill for the “vast majority” of fans at any game. A-League fans have been here before. Stepping into Melbourne and Sydney derbies or any other big game has felt like a procession into a conflict zone.

Gradually, the overbearing police let up a touch through communication.

That’s gone now.

This is the legacy of the Victory Edge.

There is another element in this sad story that should concern football officials.

Even if the Victory manages to break up the active groups in question, there’s little that can stop the rogue element from getting its “ultra-fix” at local NPL games played in Melbourne this winter and beyond. It is more difficult to effectively monitor games in suburban areas than in large stadiums. Football Australia must act quickly with Football Victoria to prevent this from happening.

More time wasted on prevention than evolution.

The curse of the game’s existence.

Back in 1991, there was a riot at a game between Preston and South Melbourne in the old NSL. Preston was docked with four points the following season. In 1985, a game between Sydney Olympic and Sydney City was canceled when angry fans stormed the pitch. Such horrific moments tainted the entire sport.

It’s a perception that modern administrators are desperate to get away from.

When the A-League was founded in 2005 after the death of the NSL, the marketing label “Football, but not as you know it” was not just an indication of the professionalism of the leagues of all teams. It was about distancing professional sport from the perceived violence and divisions of the past and appealing to a broader market.

The events of December 17th undid much of this work.

Surely $450,000 in fines (with another $100,000 suspended) will hurt victory. The impact on future trade negotiations across the league could hurt more and longer. It takes decades to build a reputation and seconds to lose it. How lasting the pain will be depends on the actions of the League from here and the vernacular gift of its leaders.

Despite the instant drop in points, this has been one hell of a month for the Victory. Their marquee signing Nani lost his cruciate ligament last week and the team have lost three in a row since the disgrace of the Melbourne derby.

The club is at rock bottom.

Games won’t look or sound the same for a while, but it could be worse. Another wrong move would be disastrous for the game’s biggest club in Australia.

Victory was still hit by a big stick. It just didn’t have any nails on it.

Adam Peacock

Starting out as a cadet, Adam spent almost a decade with the Seven Network before spending 15 years at Fox Sports covering football, tennis, cricket, the Olympics and tournaments. Favorite teams are the Socceroos, Matildas, Newcastle Utd, Manly while hobbies are watching sports, eating, sleeping and waking up to do the same. Melbourne Victory Pitch Invasion: Football Australia fines disappoint

Ryan Sederquist

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