Women's World Cup will be safe despite fan violence: Australian football chief
Published: Dec 18, 2022 07:53 PM
Football Australia boss James Johnson vowed tough sanctions Sunday after a goalkeeper was attacked during an ­A-League match, but insisted the sport is safe and there are no concerns about cohosting the Women's World Cup (WWC) in 2023.

The derby game between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City was abandoned Saturday evening after chaotic scenes when fans stormed the pitch.

City goalkeeper Tom Glover was smashed in the face with a metal bucket which left him with a bloody gash which required stitches.

Match referee Alex King was also hurt in the melee.

"I'm horrified, I'm irritated, I'm angry with the scenes we witnessed at AAMI Park last night," Johnson said at a press conference.

"We have a case of some individuals - I would not refer to them as fans of football - who have confronted and attacked a player and a match official.

"An investigation has been opened ... we will be moving swiftly and we will be taking the strongest sanctions that are available."

Supporters of both sides had been planning to walk out at the 20-minute mark in protest at a decision last week by league bosses to award the grand finals series to Sydney for the next three years.

But it turned violent when a flare thrown from the stands landed near Glover, who threw the smoking pyrotechnic back into the terraces just before the pitch was stormed.

The goalkeeper, who could also face punishment for the flare incident, was taken to hospital and had "many, many stitches," said Johnson.

The ugly scenes sparked a scathing response on social media, with fans describing it as "the darkest day for football in Australia."

They came in the wake of the Socceroos making the last 16 at the Qatar World Cup, which had engendered optimism for the future of the game. Australia is due to cohost the Women's World Cup in 2023 with New Zealand and Johnson insisted "football is very safe."

"We are a sport with a massive groundswell, we see how big our sport is becoming recently with the World Cup campaign of the Socceroos," he said. "We know that the sport will continue to grow and be at its strongest point leading into the Women's World Cup in July. I'm not worried about at all about hosting the Women's World Cup."

He denied the crowd violence could affect Australia's hopes of hosting other big tournaments.

"I'm in touch with FIFA and the AFC [Asian Football Confederation]," he said.

"These things happen and they aren't specific to Australian football.

"What is important for the public and for FIFA and the AFC is what our response is and our response is very simple - there is no place in our sport for this type of behavior."