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Melbourne Victory chiefs vow to weed out thugs

Melbourne Victory’s chairman, chief executive, coach and captain presented a united front on Wednesday afternoon, to – in chairman Anthony Di Pietro’s words – “draw a line in the sand” and warn flare ripping troublemakers that “enough is enough”.

CEO Ian Robson spoke of a series of measures that will be put in place to tighten security, warning fans of stiffer searches at entry and potential long delays to gain access to the ground as security is stepped up for Friday night’s AAMI Park clash with Adelaide United.

Coach Kevin Muscat and captain Leigh Broxham told of the pressure playing with a potential points deduction can bring, especially if the future actions of some mindless morons mean that Victory lose three competition points and miss out on a place in the finals and the chance to defend their title.

Di Pietro also condemned the suggestions of “dinosaurs ” and those living in “Jurassic Park” who have recently argued that there is something intrinsically wrong with the sport of soccer that drives its youthful fans to rip flares and cause problems.

Robson warned that there would be tough sanctions taken against those who persisted, both inside and outside the stadium, to place the club’s good name and its future prospects in jeopardy.

“We have reached a line-in-the-sand moment. It’s a moment where we ask the true Melbourne Victory fans to stand with us to eradicate anti-social behaviour,” Di Pietro said.

“It won’t just come from match-day operational matters. It will come from a unified attitude shift. The people involving themselves in anti-social behaviour are not fans of our club or game. The true fans of our club want this to come to an end.

“We now need every single Melbourne Victory person to unite … together we must ensure that anti-social behaviour from a marginal element does not compromise everything we are trying to achieve.

“Our message today is clear and simple. No more flares, no more anti-social behaviour. Enough is enough.”

Victory have 27,000 members, so the percentage of those causing trouble is tiny – a sliver of mainly young men seeking attention for their macho posturing.

The chairman urged parents to find out what their offspring were up to.

“It’s a whole-of-club approach,” Di Pietro said. “There’s young people and some very immature older people. This is a marginal element. It’s about all of us uniting to rid ourselves of this marginal element. If that’s education, if that’s security, if that’s just tapping the young fellow or a leader of the group on the shoulder and saying ‘we have had enough’.

“I ask the parents that know they are coming to our games to just check what they are up to because some of them, when they get caught, the bravado goes away and they realise what they have done has immeasurable danger.”

Robson explained that, like Western Sydney a week earlier, the club had quickly accepted the sanction and was not going to appeal the $50,000 fine.

“We felt we needed to move quickly on this matter. I think it’s fair to say that for some specific areas of the ground there’s going to be significantly heightened protocols to get into the stadium,” he said.

“That could delay for some people access. We would ask people to bear that in mind about arrival time [for the game against Adelaide on Friday].

“We have to all collectively heighten our vigilance. If that creates some additional delays and time for fans to access the stadium, that will be a small price to pay.”

Both Robson and Di Pietro said this had little to do with soccer.

“There are individuals who seek to use football – A-League matches – as a platform for anti-social behaviour,” Robson said.

Muscat said Victory’s fans had set standards the league had yet to match for creating atmosphere. Now they had to lead the way again. “Our fans have been unbelievable, over the 11 years, they have been the flagbearers in the competition,” he said.

“But once again we need to be the flagbearers and eliminate what’s going on at the moment. It’s not only anti-social, its illegal. I plead with all our fans … it’s got to the point where it must stop.

Di Pietro added: “We built an institution in the Australian sporting landscape. Melbourne Victory is built on success, that’s what we crave. This club is a sense of belonging. we embrace everyone who wants to join the club from all backgrounds, but we will not compromise on safety. No flares, that’s it. Not negotiable.”

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