Western Sydney fined, risk points reduction from FFA for fan trouble
The Western Sydney Wanderers have accepted a suspended three-point penalty and $50,000 fine on Thursday, after Football Federation Australia found them guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.
The governing body has charged the club with responsibility to ensure incidents like last weekend's pyrotechnics in Melbourne are not repeated for the next 12 months, or else risk the suspended sanction being triggered.
The punishment followed "deplorable" acts by a small group of away fans, who ignited flares and detonators during Saturday night's match against the Victory in Melbourne.
About 20 flares were lit inside Etihad Stadium, forcing the game to be stopped while smoke cleared and triggering condemnation from across the league.
FFA chief executive David Gallop announced the "coordinated and premeditated" incidents had forced the governing body into action.
Those incidents also included "unauthorised banners" like the one inside the Wanderers' away bay that read: "We're not here to take part, we're here to take over."
"The behaviour damaged the reputation and image of the game ... families left the stadium before full-time," Gallop said.
"Let me be clear: this is criminal behaviour -- it cannot be tolerated.
"They are not true football fans ... these troublemakers can't be allowed to dominate the way the game is viewed."
"This is criminal behaviour, and will not be tolerated." pic.twitter.com/dXsL21oEmr— Football Australia (@FFA) February 11, 2016
It was a view shared by Western Sydney CEO John Tsatsimas, who was disappointed with the punishment but accepted the club needed to go harder in weeding out troublemakers.
"We feel the recipient of the penalty is not the one who should be bearing the penalty," he said.
"Not withstanding that, we are a club and we need to take that on board and deal with it appropriately."
Tsatsimas was again careful to differentiate between the Wanderers' active supporter group, the boisterous Red and Black Bloc, and the headline-grabbing minority whom he branded as unwelcome, selfish and narcissistic cowards.
He implored fellow spectators to be vigilant in reporting perpetrators to police, and said the club would have to introduce stricter measures for all away matches and also beef up security at home games, despite next to no incidents being recorded this season at Pirtek Stadium.
A review of protocols had taken place, though Tsatsimas was not able to reveal at this stage any specific solutions discussed with FFA for targeting misbehaviour at away games.
Gallop said the Wanderers' determination to address the ongoing issue was a major factor in deciding the FFA's penalty, hinting it could otherwise have been more severe.
An immediate stripping of points is the harshest penalty.
One of the biggest risks is Saturday week's Sydney derby at Allianz Stadium, a fixture which typically attracts the largest contingent of travelling Wanderers fans and has recorded problems with fan violence and misconduct before.
Any loss of points would heavily impact Tony Popovic's first-placed team's bid for the Premiers' Plate, given they are ahead of Brisbane only on goal difference in a log-jammed top six.
Gallop said it was "difficult to be prescriptive" on what would be considered a severe-enough incident for that to happen.
FFA also signalled its intention to implement a national flare management plan next week, when the board was also due to finalise a promised review of the fan banning process.