Football fans let off flares, Australian police threaten lockout

Melbourne, Feb 15 (IANS) Australian police have threatened to close off stadiums to Melbourne football supporters after an A-League match was again disrupted by fans letting off flares.

Nine flares were set off in the Melbourne derby on Saturday, a week after the Western Sydney Wanderers were given a suspended sentence after the club’s official supporters group discharged flares at an away game, reports Xinhua.

Police were forced to eject 20 people during Saturday night’s match, played between cross-town rivals Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory, all of them Victory supporters.

Amid reports that the club will be issued a show cause notice by Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Monday – the same process which resulted in the Wanderers receiving a $35,000 fine and loss of three competition points (suspended for 12 months) – police say they’ve had enough.

On Monday, assistant commissioner for North West Metro Region, Stephen Leane, said they would be forced to lock football supporters out of Melbourne venues, leaving teams to play in front of empty stands, unless the illegal practice was weeded out.

“We’ve been working with the clubs for some time … but the recurrence of the behavior means they’ll have to think of other mechanisms that will deter it,” Leane said on Monday.

“At the moment active supporters get all sorts of privileges. They get seats behind the goals, access to megaphones, they’re allowed to bring in flags bigger than anyone else can bring in. Maybe it’s like dealing with an adolescent child, you actually start to turn those privileges off.”

Of the nine flares that were discharged, only two were released inside AAMI Park.

However, Leane believed the extreme measure – previously imposed on international teams including CSKA Moscow (Russia), Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) and the Croatian national side – would get the message across.

“In Europe and the UK they run matches in stadiums with no fans, that’s been some time ago, but they’ve solved the problem in Europe,” he said.

“(Flares) might have been part of the culture 10 or 15 years ago, but it’s not part of the culture now. We will continue to have the game running, but as a safety issue – and (on Saturday) night we had bottles onto the ground – if that continues, the game is going to stop,” he added.

On Sunday, Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat said the disruptive fans needed to “grow up” and weren’t welcome at any of their future home or away fixtures.

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