A volunteer coach has apologised for his role in the pitch invasion of a Melbourne A-League game, saying he would be “appalled” if it happened at one of his games.
During a police interview days after the incident on December 17, Auskick coach Cameron Neubacher said he regretted joining the fracas which caused more than $200,000 in damage.
“I saw the Melbourne City keeper throw a flare back into the stands and people start running onto the field,” he said.
“I don’t know why I joined in; I thought it would be fun.”
Neubacher’s comments were read to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday as 36 people charged over the pitch invasion were called to appear on charges.
He, alongside Grigorios Theodoropoulos, Muhammed Kutlu, Jack Hadrick, Hector Vigor, Nicholas Conforti, Declan Stewart, Jake White and Benjamin Rogers pleaded guilty to a charge of disrupting the sporting event.
Neubacher pleaded guilty to an additional charge of discharging a missile after he was caught on CCTV throwing a bucket of sand which narrowly missed a group of people.
He would later tell police he saw buckets and objects flying through the air during the “chaos” and only picked the bucket up to “throw it out of the way”.
Stewart also pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing a lit flare which he was seen holding on the pitch.
Several other men charged over their alleged roles – including Alex Agelopoulos, who became the face of the mayhem after allegedly striking Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover in the head with a bucket – indicated through their lawyers the charges would soon “resolve”.
Mr Glover, the court was told, would later suffer a concussion and require five stitches for a laceration to his face.
Outlining the police case, a prosecutor told the court police were in attendance at the derby match between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory after receiving intelligence of possible unrest.
Spectators had planned to walk out at the 20-minute mark to protest Football Federation Australia’s deal to host the next three grand finals at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium, she told the court.
Instead, at 8.06pm, about 120 to 150 people from the northern stand stormed the pitch after a lit flare was thrown onto the pitch and Mr Glover accidentally threw it back into the stand.
“The estimated damage bill was $209,250.80,” she told the court.
Bottles, flares, metal buckets and broken stadium chairs were thrown about as the game was abandoned by officials after 22 minutes.
Multiple people, including referee Alex King, Mr Glover, a camera man and a security officer were injured.
Melbourne Victory was handed a record $550,000 fine over the incident, while 38 people, including at least one child, were charged over the incident.
Police and thousands of supporters later condemned the behaviour on what was called football’s “night of shame”.
Sentencing the men, Magistrate Rosemary Falla expressed confusion as to why self-described “supporters” of the game and their teams would behave in such an illogical way.
“Everyone here, I’m told, is a great supporter of the sport; it’s a funny way of showing it,” she said.
“Those players, security guards and officials are entitled to be safe … True supporters wouldn’t behave this way.”
Lawyers acting for the men said they deeply regretted their actions and were caught up in the crowd, which Ms Falla slammed as “mob mentality”.
“Simply following the flock onto the pitch … what did these accused men think was going to happen?” she questioned.
All nine men were placed on a good behaviour bond without conviction and banned from attending sporting games for a year.
Ms Falla ordered Nubacher and Stewart to contribute $1200 and $1800 respectively to the court fund, to be disbursed to welfare organisations.
Theodoropoulos, Kutlu, Hadrick, Vigor, White and Rogers were ordered to pay $800 to the same fund.