By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Sandown Lions and Springvale City soccer clubs have both been penalised by a Football Victoria tribunal over a violence-marred match at Ross Reserve, Noble Park on 2 August.
Despite the sanctions, the Lions say they have been vindicated and cleared of involvement in the ugly pitch invasion by about 50 spectators at the end of the game.
The Lions had argued that the invaders were mainly a group of “black kids” involved in an earlier street brawl which was dispersed by police nearby.
A Football Victoria (FV) tribunal banned a Lions player for eight games for violent misconduct.
Lions secretary Bol Luak said the tribunal blamed the incident – in which the Lion “pushed over” a Springvale City player – for sparking the pitch invasion.
As a result, it deducted six points from the Lions for the player’s misconduct, knocking it from the top of the State League 4 table.
The club was handed a suspended fine of $1000.
Springvale City was fined $500 and had three points deducted for failing to control a club associate.
One of its players failed to appear to face a violent misconduct charge. His case was adjourned.
Springvale City has said that three of its players were coward-punched in the violence, including one rendered unconscious and another who had his teeth knocked out.
The Lions say that their marshall was punched in the face by a City player.
Mr Luak said the tribunal accepted that the mass of pitch invaders were not fans from either the Lions or Springvale City clubs.
The club’s own video footage exonerated a Lions player and committee member, who was charged as a result of the match referee’s allegations.
Mr Luak said the footage showed that the player was actually the victim of on-field aggression. The Lion was subsequently cleared of the “one-sided” allegations, he said.
Another club associate accused of hurling a projectile at a Springvale City player was also not dealt with. The tribunal stated that it was a police matter. Mr Luak said there was no evidence at the tribunal to sustain the charge.
Victoria Police say no charges have been laid as part of its ongoing investigation.
Though feeling vindicated, the Lions had already suffered national scorn as well as a team refusing to play them since the incident.
“It was lucky we were able to capture the evidence on video. The allegations had been all one-sided.”
The club wanted to now build a better relationship with Springvale City, which had publicly called for the Lions’ suspension, Mr Luak said.
“We don’t want to see them as enemies.”
He called for more marshalls to help control crowds, and assertive refereeing to stamp out malicious play.
In a statement, Football Victoria said it would meet with Springvale City and Sandown Lions who are co-tenants at Ross Reserve “as a priority”.
The aim was to support the “positive aspects” of the club’s programs and “to put in place steps to ensure such incidents are not repeated”.
The tribunal decision – which also penalised North Sunshine Eagles and Preston Lions over a separate ugly incident – sent a “strong message”, the statement said.
“The Tribunal’s decisions last night again underline FV’s call to Respect The Game,” FV chief executive Peter Fiolopoulos said.
“We all need to keep working together to keep our game strong and protect participants, match officials, club administrators, volunteers and spectators at each venue each week.”