Inter-city rivalry saw one of Dixon Hospitality’s inner-Melbourne pubs become the scene of a brawl between two groups of soccer fans on Saturday.
Victoria Police confirmed they were at the Imperial Hotel, where “There were two groups involved in a brawl”.
It was reported that glasses were smashed, furniture thrown around and a door kicked in during a melee between fans of Melbourne City and Sydney FC, prior to the game.
Management said it began when some Sydney FC fans approached a group of Melbourne City supporters seated outside.
Police were nearby and quickly intervened “just in the nick of time” according to the manager of the Imperial.
The incident comes in the wake of the other Sydney A-League team, the Western Sydney Wanderers, copping a $50,000 fine plus a suspended points deduction last month from the Football Federation of Australia (FFA).
The Wanderers boast perhaps the League’s most boisterous and enthusiastic fan-base of around 18,000 – known as the Red & Black Bloc (RBB) – which has a history of riotous behaviour. The penalty was the result of fans lighting and throwing flares onto the field during a recent match against the Melbourne Victory.
Often called the World Game, the intense, low-scoring nature of the round ball game has long seen fans emit passion and commit violence in the name of their team. Saturday’s flash incident was a coupling of this with the inherent rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.
Western Sydney Wanderers chief executive John Tsatsimas issued a solemn appeal to soccer fans that goes a long way to explaining Australia’s perceived social problems with violence.
“It’s a cultural thing. We need to get into these people’s minds that sort of behaviour is not acceptable,” he told the ABC.
Melbourne City went on to beat Sydney FC 3-0.