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Jan 8, 2006

Pitch invader hit with 12-month ban

A-League club Central Coast has acted swiftly against a spectator who got involved in an on-field melee during a match, hitting him with a 12-month ban as well as a $500 fine from police.

The pitch invader jumped the fence during an all-in brawl between players and officials late in the Mariners' 1-0 victory over New Zealand Knights at Central Coast Stadium and ran into the thick of the action.

Knights striker Sean Devine has been cited over his part in the melee and will appear before a Football Federation Australia disciplinary hearing on Thursday charged with aggressive conduct.

Devine, who had earlier been substituted, leapt off the bench and became involved in the brawl.

He now faces suspension after the FFA viewed video footage of the incident.

While the fan did not become physically involved in the fracas, investigations by the Mariners and Central Coast Stadium authorities resulted in the spectator's 12-month ban from the venue - as well as the threat of a lifetime ban for a repeat offence.

The FFA applauded the swift action by the Mariners and stadium management, and said it would not take any action against the A-League club over the incident.

"The FFA considers player and match official safety as paramount, and incidents as observed on Sunday are completely unacceptable," FFA head of operations Matt Carroll said.

"The FFA is satisfied that the appropriate course of action has been taken by the relevant authorities."

The fan was also hit with a $500 fine and an infringement notice by police under NSW laws banning pitch invaders at sporting venues.

Mariners executive chairman Lyall Gorman said the club and stadium officials had found out who the pitch invader was, and had launched an immediate investigation into how he managed to get onto the field.

"We started an inquiry on this last night. Obviously there was a breach of security and that doesn't please us - that's not what we're about," Gorman told AAP.

"What we've got to do now is take the right action to minimise the chances of that re-occurring.

"We're concerned by it, but we're not a knee-jerk organisation.

"We wanted to make sure we took the appropriate action and work with the FFA and stadium to put procedures in place so it doesn't happen again."

The spectator had to be ordered out of the melee by New Zealand Knights officials before a security guard reached him and marched him out of the stadium.

The pitch invader took much of the gloss off an important win by the Mariners, who moved into third place with the victory.

They are now within sight of a top two finish if they can beat second-placed Sydney FC at Aussie Stadium on Saturday night.

Central Coast, which has punched above its weight all season despite being hit hard by injuries, will face a Sydney side likely to be reshuffled after its second successive draw.

Coach Pierre Littbarski is considering recalling out-of-favour ex-Socceroo striker David Zdrilic to partner Sasho Petrovski up front in a two-pronged attack against the Mariners.