Smoke and ire … Western Sydney goalkeeper Ante Covic picks up a flare thrown on the pitch during Saturday night's match. Three fans were charged. Photo: Brendan Esposito
THREE football fans have been charged and face five-year bans after flares were thrown on to the pitch at Allianz Stadium during Saturday night's Sydney derby.
A crowd of more than 26,000 created a stirring atmosphere from the stands in a battle of east versus west, but the passion of the rivalry got the better of a small number of fans.
Smoke drifted across the stadium before the match, when Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers fans lit flares in the stands, and spectators in the designated Wanderers bay threw two on to the pitch.
Another flare was hurled from the same end of the ground during goal celebrations in the first half, and landed near Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic.
Two men, aged 21 and 28, were arrested and charged with possessing a non-firearm for discharging irritant in a public place and will appear in the Downing Centre Local Court on January 8. They have been conditionally bailed. A 16-year-old was also arrested and will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act.
If found guilty, the two men and the teenager will be prohibited from attending any professional football game in Australia for up to five years, in addition to any punishment determined by the courts.
''There is a zero tolerance policy on flares and those found guilty by courts will face the additional penalty of a ban from all football for up to five years,'' an FFA spokesman said. ''The Sydney derby had a crowd over 26,000 and produced an amazing atmosphere in an largely family-friendly environment, but it's regrettable that a few irresponsible fans have drawn attention to the event for the wrong reasons. FFA works closely with NSW Police, venue security and the competing clubs to identify and eject troublemakers at Hyundai A-League matches in this state.''
The three were arrested at the venue and charged by officers of the Eastern Beaches local area command.
''They've brought danger to themselves and the people around them. There's a potential for danger to other spectators,'' Inspector Leonard James said. ''Their bail conditions state that they're not allowed to attend A-League games.''
Despite the incident, the behaviour of the crowd was praised by the FFA. There were very few ejections and arrests made at the game despite the large police presence.