MELBOURNE : A-League boss Danny Townsend has denied that Australian soccer has a culture of poor crowd behaviour as police continued investigations into a pitch invasion that left a player and a referee injured during the abandoned Melbourne derby.
Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover was concussed after being struck in the face by a metal bucket and referee Alex King suffered a cut to his head as fans from the Victory end stormed onto the pitch on Saturday.
The incident follows fans making Nazi salutes and shouting over an Indigenous welcoming ceremony at Western Sydney Stadium in October during the Australia Cup final.
Amid accusations from media pundits that the league and clubs have failed to rein in unruly supporters, Townsend said Australian soccer did not have a culture problem.
“Not at all,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“When you look back at the last 10 years, our fans have been largely well behaved.
“The active supporter groups that create atmosphere at grounds all over the country are largely well behaved.
“What happened on Saturday was unacceptable – they weren’t football fans, they were individuals who used that platform to demonstrate their own illegal behaviours.”
Glover, who returned to training on Monday with his head bandaged, said the pitch invasion was “disappointing for football”.
“The police investigation is doing its thing, for me, it’s just about getting back on the pitch and being ready for next week,” he told the Nine Network.
The pitch invasion came days after the A-League announced it had signed a deal to sell its men’s and women’s title-deciding Grand Finals to Sydney until 2025, a decision that triggered a major fan backlash.
Hosting rights for Grand Finals were previously given to the top-finishing teams.
Townsend defended the move, saying the league needed to explain its reasoning.
“Difficult decisions are often unpopular so we need to make sure they understand we have the best interests of the game at heart,” he said.