Western Sydney Wanderers have blamed Melbourne Victory supporters for sparking the violent street brawl before Saturday’s match between the two teams.
The Wanderers have also backed their huge supporter base while condemning the behaviour of “five or six individuals” among the 1500 who made the trip to Melbourne as completely unacceptable.
With the two teams set to meet at AAMI Park again on January 14, the Victory on Monday called on football authorities to provide swift and stern action to clamp down on hooliganism, noting also that flares and detonators were let off in the away supporters bay during the evening match.
The Wanderers responded on Tuesday, issuing a statement reiterating their commitment to ensuring a “safe, fun-filled environment” for all fans and the team’s matches.
But they also claimed Victory supporters sparked ugly scenes around the Royal Melbourne Hotel on Bourke Street in mid-afternoon after which at least eight people were reported hospitalised.
“The club…is committed to working in collaboration with the Melbourne Victory Football Club and all relevant stakeholders to identify any individual involved either at the match or in the unfortunate incident triggered by some Melbourne Victory fans at the Wanderers pre-match Hotel function,” the club said.
“While appreciating the difficulties that the Melbourne Victory Football Club are currently experiencing with its active supporter group remaining on strike because of irreconcilable differences, the Western Sydney Wanderers will not shy away from its full responsibility for the behaviour of any fan that can be directly linked to the club.”
The Wanderers noted that it had sent five senior staff to the match in Melbourne to lend support with match day operations including fan behaviour as evidence of its commitment to fan security and safety.
“The club reaffirms its full support of its 16,700 members who continue to set a new benchmark for fan support in any sporting code in the country and will not let the actions of an absolute minority stand in the way of this recognition.
“The 1500 Wanderers fans in attendance at Saturday’s match who demonstrated exemplary behaviour is a greater reflection of the club’s values and culture than the five or six individuals who chose to demonstrate completely unacceptable behaviour.
It said the club had a “virtually unblemished” record of fan behaviour at its matches this year and would seek a co-operative approach with the Melbourne Victory to identify the catalysts for Saturday’s problems and provide strategies to avoid any repeat.