Lawyers for Melbourne Victory were locked in on compiling the most detailed response possible to the show cause notice issued by Football Australia following last week‘s pitch invasion knowing the financial ramifications of any penalties could be crippling not only for them but for other clubs.
Coaches and players have been told not to talk about the incident publicly with no clarity on whether the Boxing Day clash with cross-town rivals Western United will go ahead, or in what form, which could hit the reigning A-League premiers as hard as Victory.
The club has begun conversations with the leadership of the active supporter groups at the centre of the chaotic scenes, including OSM, with three people already charged by Victoria Police who have launched Operation Astute to investigate the AAMI Park incident.
Victory was give until 9am on Wednesday to show why they “should not face serious sanctions for bringing the game into disrepute” and were expected to take every minute to put together their response.
Stakeholders including security operators and police were being consulted as part of the club’s response which it hopes will be enough to avoid the most significant sanctions.
The club’s coaching and playing staff have been told not to speak to the media, with weekly regular interviews with coach Tony Popovic postponed until the penalties become clear.
Football Australia has vowed to use the full force of its powers to sanction the club with a financial penalty, points deduction or even making them play games behind closed doors, with fans locked out of stadiums, which would prove a hard hit to the club’s finances.
With the penalties unclear the potential impact on the Boxing Day clash with United could be collateral damage. The tight turnaround between Wednesday’s deadline and Monday’s game, with Christmas also approaching, has put officials at both clubs on tenterhooks.
It’s a United home game but any lockout of fans could hit the bottom line of the reigning premiers hard, with the cross-town clash pencilled in as one of their biggest revenue raisers of the season. On Tuesday, ticket sales remained open for the clash.
Victory only has two home games in all of January, and with suggestions the club could be forced to play up to five games with no fans, that could extend in to February and included a marquee match-up with Sydney FC, as well as a return clash with Melbourne City.
Such a ban could be “devastating” according to Victory managing director Caroline Carnegie with some club insiders expecting the heaviest of penalties from FA.
“All of those things are possibilities and ultimately, financially it’s devastating for us if we don’t get our fans into a stadium or we don’t have our fans doing what they do best,” she said.
While Victory awaits it penalty neither the A-League or FA has yet declared whether Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover, who tossed a flare thrown onto the pitch by fans back into the crowd, which prompted the rogue fans to storm the field.
On Monday the players union declared Glover, who suffered a gash to his head when a bucket was thrown at him in the chaos, should be supported and not blamed.
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