APL CEO Danny Townsend has denied there is a cultural problem in Australian football and affirmed the A-Leagues will not budge on the controversial decision to relocate the grand finals to Sydney.
- Danny Townsend called the actions of some attendees during the Melbourne Derby “barbaric”
- He denied there was a cultural problem in Australian soccer
- Football Australia has served Victory with a show-cause notice
The news came as Melbourne Victory was officially served a show-cause notice, with Football Australia giving the club until Wednesday to explain why it should not face sanctions.
Speaking on ABC Breakfast, Townsend declined to draw a link between Saturday night’s pitch invasion in Melbourne and other fan protests against last week’s grand final announcement.
But the CEO of the A-Leagues regulatory board said the decision would stand as the game tried to pick up the pieces from one of the darkest days in its Australian history.
“We certainly won’t, as administrators of the game, be bowing to that kind of behaviour,” he said.
“I think the other 10 games that went on, there were peaceful protests.
“One of the great things about football is fans have a right to voice their opinion and we respect that, we listen and we absorb it, but what went on on Saturday night was not a protest — that was simply barbaric.
“When you look back at the last 10 years, our fans have been largely well behaved.
“The active supporter groups that create atmosphere at grounds all over the country are largely well behaved.
“What happened on Saturday was unacceptable — they weren’t football fans, they were individuals who used that platform to demonstrate their own illegal behaviours.”
Townsend declined to speculate on what punishments could be levelled at Victory, but according to an FA statement they could include financial penalties, loss of competition points and/or playing matches behind closed doors, or on neutral territory.
The backlash against moving the grand finals Sydney, subsequent protests and the Melbourne incident have taken much of the shine off Australian football, which seemed to be on the rise following Australia’s promising World Cup campaign.
Townsend was steadfast in his belief that the sport would not only survive the recent storm of criticism, but continue to rise.
“I’ve never packed a balaclava to go to a football game and I think that demonstrates to me that there were people in that stadium who were there to cause havoc — and they certainly did that,” Townsend said.
“It was a dark moment for our game but it’s not going to hold us back.
“We’ve got great momentum in football at the moment. We’re the biggest participation sport in the country, we’ve got real, genuine momentum, and we’re investing ahead of that to make sure football is on the national sporting stage for a long time to come.”
Townsend also stressed fans had to understand the financial realities behind the decision to move coming grand finals to Sydney.
“This is a lot about education for us, that we demonstrate to our fans the reasons why we make difficult decisions,” he said.
“And difficult decisions are often unpopular so we need to make sure they understand we have the best interests of the game at heart.
“We want to raise the commercial value of our sport to invest in youth development, in women’s football, and all the things our fans love about the game.
“Sometimes that comes with some compromise.”