Soccer bodies, including Sale United Football Club, have moved to guarantee people the situation that arose at a recent A-League match – where the game was abandoned due to a bloodied pitch invasion, does not reflect the sport.

Police charged 13 people and identified an additional 18 as part of the investigation into the invasion during the December 17 A-League match at AAMI Park, making global headlines the day before the World Cup Final.

More than 150 football fans stormed the pitch during the A-League men’s Melbourne Derby on December 17, injuring five men, including Melbourne City goalkeeper Thomas Glover.

Glover was ushered off the field, blood gushing from his head after being struck with a stainless steel bucket full of sand. He was later hospitalised, requiring stitches to his head, with the club confirming the City shot-stopper suffered a concussion the following morning.

Referee Alex King sustained injuries during the incident as he put himself between Glover and the rioting spectators.

A television cameraman and two security guards also suffered injuries during the violent pitch invasion.

More than 80 flares and fireworks were released in shocking scenes when Melbourne Victory played Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Saturday, December 17, with approximately $150,000 worth of damage caused to the venue.

Bottles and poles were thrown at police officers responding on the field, with one hooligan seen throwing a trolley amidst the madness.

The incident escalated as part of a series of protests around the country against the Australian Professional League’s (APL) decision to play the next three A-League grand finals in Sydney, rather than allowing the top-ranked side in the match to host it.

Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City supporters had planned to walk out at the 20-minute mark as Newcastle fans had done earlier in the round when the situation violently escalated.

Immediately following the preceding A-League Women’s game, fans began chanting “f*** the APL”, unfurling banners expressing their vexation with the league.

Victory and City fans let off flares and fireworks, and in the 11th minute, the game descended into chaos.

Australian footballers and fans have condemned the actions of pitch invaders; the event described as one of the most damaging moments Australian soccer has seen.

Sale United Senior Men’s coach Anouk Meereboer says events which unfurled at AAMI Park are disappointing and are not a reflection of soccer in Australia.

“Being involved in the regional soccer world and witnessing what happened on Saturday (December 17) has been utmost disappointing,” Meereboer said.

“These actions are definitely not a reflection of football in Australia.

“Looking at the GoSevens (social soccer) family atmosphere we have at Sale United FC, where children from a very young age are running around, playing with other kids, having a kick with the soccer ball and cheering players on, is the total opposite from what we saw last weekend.

“This was a small number of people putting a sport that can be played by anyone in the wrong light.

“It’s disappointing that people see these images, especially people that haven’t been involved in the sport before, and this might push them away from becoming involved.”

Meereboer highlighted recent figures from Optus Sport which show that soccer has the highest participation rate in Australia.

“We at Sale United really hope to grow the sport further, and with the Women’s World Cup being in Australia, this should be great promotion for women and girls to participate, knowing that Sale United, as well as the sporting bodies, have a zero-tolerance policy on violence of any kind,” she said.

“Let’s enjoy the sport and celebrate the great games we’re able to watch with the Women’s World Cup coming to the country.”

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson made clear that the governing body does not tolerate hooligan behaviour, labelling actions of rioters as “completely unacceptable”.

“Those people and their behaviours will never be welcome in our game,” Johnson said.

“Football has a zero-tolerance policy to disruptive, destructive, violent, and anti-social behaviour at its sanctioned events, and it will not tolerate behaviour that has the potential to threaten the safety or security of spectators, players, and officials.”

“Football Australia is working around the clock on this investigation to ensure that the scenes witnessed at AAMI Park in Melbourne are never repeated again.”

Operation Astute has now charged 13 people over the violence that exploded at AAMI Park on Saturday, December 17, with police charging a 23-year-old Craigieburn man for the alleged assault of Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover.

The man has been charged with violent disorder, discharge missile, intent to cause injury, recklessly cause injury, unlawful assault, entry to sporting competition space, disrupting a match, public nuisance and riotous behaviour.

A 19-year-old Meadow Heights man and an 18-year-old Alphington man have also been charged in relation to a separate alleged assault on the goalkeeper.

Football Australia has handed lifetime bans to the 23-year-old Craigieburn man and the 19-year-old Meadow Heights man as investigations into the pitch invasion continues.

Both men have been banned for life from all football activity, including attending matches and events and playing.

All those charged have been granted bail to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 27, 2023.