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Questions over security at AAMI Park during A-League pitch invasion

Questions over security at AAMI Park during A-League pitch invasion
December 20, 2022

With media focussing on the irresponsible actions of fans who invaded the pitch and halted Saturday’s A-League Melbourne derby, venue manager Melbourne and Olympic Parks is working on an independent review of AAMI Park’s security measures.

With Melbourne City and Victory fans protesting the Australian Professional Leagues (APL)’ decision to stage the next three grand finals in Sydney at a fixture known for its volatility, more than 100 Victory fans entered the playing field as of the 22nd minute of the match.

After a number of flares had been ignited, when one flare appeared to hit a Network 10 cameraman, while another was thrown back into the stand housing Victory’s active support by City goalkeeper Tom Glover.

Chaotic scenes saw fans then invade the pitch, with one throwing a metal bucket used to dispose of flares in the direction of Glover, striking him in the face and drawing blood. Match referee Alex King, who was also injured and left covered in sand from the bucket, halted the game, before it was later abandoned due to concerns over player safety.

An estimated $120,000 of damage was done to the venue.

According to Victoria Police, approximately 50 flares were lit within stands during the game, with three thrown on to the field. AAMI Park venue manager Melbourne and Olympic Parks (M&OP) disclosed seven flares were confiscated during bag searches of patrons entering AAMI Park. Additionally, bottles were also thrown at the public order response team on the field.

Video of the incident shows a small number of stewards in high-visibility vests in front of the Victory fans - who appear to take little action during the pitch invasion.

With 18,000 fans in attendance, Australasian Leisure Management understands that there were 134 Victoria Police officers at the game and 156 security staff deployed through the venue.

The latter number is below recommendations from world football governing body FIFA which advises in its FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations that “as a guide, there should be a ratio of one steward per 250 of the anticipated attendance for a low-risk match.

“This ratio should be increased to up to one per 100 of the anticipated attendance where the risk assessment shows a need for a higher level of safety and security management.”

Speaking after the incident, Victoria Police Inspector Jason Goddard said that the Police had prepared for the possibility of a pitch invasion, noting “in recent times there has been a little bit of controversy … in relation to a decision made by the league.

“We work very, very hard in the lead-up to these games, and we worked especially hard in the lead-up to this game.”

Following the incidents, M&OP is now working on an independent review of AAMI Park’s security measures, with a spokesperson advising “M&OP will work with a specialist, independent security agency and undertake a review, and continue to enhance security procedures.

“M&OP will continue to work with the clubs and the league to ensure a safe environment at all events at AAMI Park.”

In a statement to Australasian Leisure Management, the M&OP spokesperson went on to explain “M&OP works closely with the venue hirer, in this case, Australian Premier Leagues, to determine the security overlay for events at AAMI Park.

“At the Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory match at AAMI Park on Saturday 17 December, venue security worked closely with Victoria Police to remove fans from the pitch and manage behaviour which did not comply with the venue’s conditions of entry.

“A total of 156 security staff were deployed through the stadium for the last Saturday’s match. Comparatively, for the last derby (Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City on 9 April 2022), 82 security staff were deployed.

“In addition, the Victoria Police overlay was significantly enhanced, with the provision of mounted police and increased numbers of incident response resources.

“Upon ingress every person entering the stadium was subject to a bag check. As part of this process seven flares were confiscated. The only way to effectively stop flares from entering the venue is to undertaken physical search of each person. It is a criminal offence to bring and light flares to an event.”

Fans Charged and Banned
As of yesterday, Victoria Police had charged three men in relation to the pitch invasion while, working with Victoria Police, Football Australia has issued two men with lifetime bans from all related football activity including attending Football Australia-sanctioned football matches and events including all A-Leagues, Australia Cup, National Premier League, and National Team matches and registering as a football participant.

Football Australia has also issued a show cause notice to Victory following what it described as the “horrific” incidents at AAMI Park. The club has been given until 9am on Wednesday to show cause why it should not face “serious sanctions” for bringing the game into disrepute through the conduct of its supporters.

APL has not responded to Australasian Leisure Management’s requests for comment on aspects of its role as hirer of AAMI Park but has issued a statement advising that Saturday’s incident marks a “watershed moment” for the sport in Australia, adding that its clubs will work with law enforcement agencies and Football Australia to ensure that the game can “never again be used as a camouflage for criminals”.

In November, M&OP's John Cain Arena experienced a crowd crush in advance of a concert by American alternative R’n’B star Steve Lacy.

The incident reportedly prompted Melbourne and Olympic Parks to initiate an internal review of the incident.

Australasian Leisure Management is not aware of the current status of that review.

Click here to view the FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations.

Images show fans at AAMI Park during Saturday’s A-League Melbourne derby. Credit: Victoria Police.

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-founder/Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-founder and Publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

In 2020, he launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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