Police to swoop on bad behaviour at charged Melbourne derby

Victoria Police have vowed to take swift action against any unruly soccer fans at Saturday night’s A-League Melbourne derby, as the cross-town foes meet for the first time since the violent pitch invasion in December.

Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City will take to the pitch at AAMI Park from 7.45pm tonight. The last time the teams faced-off was marred by 150 Melbourne Victory fans storming the turf, with dozens of supporters arrested and sanctions placed on the club.

Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover was left bleeding and concussed after fans stormed the pitch on December 17.Credit:Getty

Described by Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Vukovic as the “darkest day for football in Australia”, the match had to abandoned after just 21 minutes when goalkeeper Tom Glover, match referee Alex King and a Network 10 camera operator were injured in the fray.

Fans had initially promised to walk out of last year’s Melbourne derby as a protest against the A-Leagues’ controversial decision to play grand finals in Sydney for the next three years.

Following the fracas, Melbourne Victory was fined $550,000, with the threat of a 10-point deduction looming over the club’s head until the end of 2025.

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said officers would have a “highly visible police presence at AAMI Park” on Saturday for the much-anticipated Melbourne derby.

“Poor behaviour will not be tolerated, and police will be closely monitoring the behaviour of individuals,” she said.

“We will not hesitate to take swift action against any anti-social or criminal behaviour.”

Officers from the public order response team (PORT) and mounted branch will be stationed at the stadium during the game.

Victory fans who purchased tickets for the game were informed that supporter bays 36 to 40 at AAMI Park would be tarped during the match.

Further security measures ahead of the derby include restrictions on ticketing, extra security guards and an enhanced response to flares, according to a spokeswoman for venue manager Melbourne & Olympic Parks.

Melbourne Victory coach Tony Popovic said this week that the club was “happy to see our fans and members back” and wanted that to continue after the team had to play behind closed doors in December.

“No one’s ignoring it (but) we’ve all moved on from that,” he said of the pitch invasion.

The fan group accused of driving the pitch invasion last year, Original Style Melbourne (OSM), said in a post to Facebook that the tarps were irrelevant, urging supporters to “act smart” and not give detractors that excuse to “attempt to destroy us again”.

Victorian Sports Minister Steve Dimopoulos made an appeal to soccer fans’ “sense of higher values” on Saturday, noting that troublemakers would be quickly dealt with at the match.

“What we saw in December was completely unacceptable,” he said.

“Bad behaviour – tonight or any night, at any sporting venue in Victoria – will not be tolerated. Those who come with a mischief-making predisposition will be taken to task.

“In terms of my level of optimism, yeah, I’m optimistic, because I believe Victorians in the main love sport and love a safe and respectful event.”

With AAP

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