NSW Police and Football Federation Australia have been in discussions over preparations for this weekend’s Sydney derby, in a bid to prevent potential scenes of flare ripping and fan violence.
Saturday night’s showdown at Allianz Stadium is deemed high risk, as it consistently draws a sellout crowd and is the epicentre of rivalry between Sydney FC and Western Sydney supporters.
The fixture, which has been marred by numerous incidents before, also typically attracts the largest contingent of travelling Wanderers fans, a factor to which the club attributed the flare-lighting and detonator-blowing havoc on display at Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago.
FFA have already punished Western Sydney, and on Monday served Melbourne Victory a show-cause notice in response to the misbehaviour of a minority of their own fans during the weekend’s Melbourne derby at AAMI Park.
In the current climate, the governing body are bracing for the threat of a third episode in as many weeks. “Our people are in discussions, and have been for some time about the derby on Saturday night,” chief executive David Gallop said.
“The focus could not be more on these issues now. We are hoping everyone recognises that, and recognises the damage that could be done if we don’t have a well-behaved fan group on Saturday night.”
Some of that damage could include the activation of the Wanderers’ suspended three-point penalty – one half of their sanction along with a $50,000 fine. The club have largely eliminated problems at home games, with next to no incidents this season. Not a flare was in sight at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday night, where only 24 police officers patrolled the upset by Wellington.
CEO John Tsatsimas last week said the danger of mischief is decreased at Pirtek because only members are allowed to enter the Red and Black Bloc active support section. But away games remain an issue because any member of the public can buy tickets for the designated supporter bays.
This will be the Wanderers’ first away match since the trouble at the Victory clash.
Self-described Sydney FC “hooligans” also told the Network 10 on Monday night that Allianz Stadium was the easiest A-League venue to smuggle flares into.
NSW Police will release more details of their arrangements for the derby later this week. “NSW Police is in the planning phase for this fixture,” a spokesman told AAP.
“As always, community safety is the No1 priority for police at any major public event. We continue to liaise closely with the venue, the clubs and FFA. Using all intelligence available to us, police will ensure appropriate numbers of officers and resources are available for the event.”