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Flares dampen Sydney derby blockbuster

Michael Lynch and Scott Spits review the weekend A-League action, including the fiery Sydney derby.

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SOCCER boss David Gallop has backed supporter groups to effectively self-regulate the actions of their members after the behaviour of fans was again called into question.

Football Federation Australia said on Monday it will impose tough sanctions on fans who throw flares or racially abuse players, but praised the overall conduct of most A-League spectators.

Speaking at a function to promote the A-League's schedule over the holiday season, Gallop reiterated the governing body's zero-tolerance stance towards fans throwing flares by pursuing five-year bans for those responsible.

Paul Ifill is challenged by Fabio Ferreira of Adelaide during the round 11 A-League match at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Not happy: Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill (left) was at the receiving end on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

But he has put his faith in the leadership of supporter groups in stamping out the actions of troublemakers.

''We have to remember that was a very small minority of people that misbehaved in an otherwise wonderful atmosphere in Australian sport,'' Gallop said of Saturday night's Sydney derby.

''It's an issue that we need to stay vigilant about, we need our fans to stay vigilant about. If our fan groups can regulate that kind of thing, then we're a good chance of stamping it out.''

More than 26,000 fans attended the derby but the arrests of two men and a teenager for throwing flares threatened to spoil the occasion. The next day, Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill was allegedly abused by a spectator at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide. Ifill said the spectator racially abused him when he was substituted, before running away before authorities could intervene.

''[I was subjected to] a few things that were blatantly racist that I'd rather not repeat,'' he tweeted. ''To be fair I believe it's an isolated incident have to say its a 1st for me in the ALeague.''

Adelaide captain Eugene Galekovic said such abuse shouldn't be tolerated. ''I don't condone racial sledges or anything like that … there is a line and you can't really cross that line any more,'' he said.

Phoenix midfielder Alex Smith described the abuse as ''very racist and disgraceful''.

Fan violence was an issue Gallop was forced to tackle during his 10 years as NRL boss, famously suspending four competition points from the Canterbury Bulldogs after a brawl between their followers and Sydney Roosters fans in 2004.

He was not prepared to draw comparisons between the behaviour of rugby league and soccer fans but vowed to promote the style of active support displayed throughout the A-League.

''It's always difficult to make comparisons,'' he said. ''The atmosphere at our grounds is unique in Australian sport and we want to continue to see the singing, the dancing the drums. All those things are fantastic, but throwing flares isn't.''

New South Wales Police assistant commissioner Alan Clarke praised the behaviour of most spectators at the derby. There was a low number of reported incidents, ejections and arrests at the match.