Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover will not face a suspension for throwing two flares off the field of play, the second of which landed in a section of Melbourne Victory supporters, moments prior to the violent pitch invasion that forced the abandonment of the Melbourne derby on Dec. 17.
Given the responsibility of reviewing the incident and determining if Glover, 25, should be sanctioned, an independent match review panel (MRP) was tasked under clause 11.2 of the laws of the game with determining if the incident had escaped referee Alex King's attention and, if so, whether the keeper should have received a red card for the incident.
As Glover's throwing of the flares came prior to the game being officially abandoned, established procedure dictated that the matter was the jurisdiction of the match officials and the MRP. The panel sits separately from both Football Australia and A-Leagues administrators the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), deliberately set up in a manner to ensure it operates without influence or interference from either body.
After reviewing available match footage and consulting the referee's match report, it was determined that the MRP had no grounds to continue with a possible sanction for Glover as the incident had not escaped the match official's attention.
"Tom Glover the goal keeper had thrown the two flares back," King's report included. "One went over hoarding behind the goal and unfortunately one went back into the crowd. In no way do I believe this was done purposely by Tom Glover."
The decision meant that Glover was free to play a role in City's 1-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday afternoon, much to the confusion of Mariner boss Nick Montgomery.
"Throwing a firework [flare] back in a crowd of people, I think all the talk after was that he would be suspended, and I actually thought he would be," said Montgomery. "I don't want people suspended but he's a good keeper and he's saved them two points tonight.
"Not saying I don't want people to play but concussion and throwing a firework?
"I like Tommy, he's a great kid. But I told him, I had a laugh with him after, and said 'you must be the only person who can throw a firework [flare] and not get suspended'."
"Since the independent MRP was satisfied that the incident had not escaped the referee's attention, the MRP did not proceed to consider whether Glover should have been sanctioned with a direct red card," a Football Australia spokesperson said of the decision to not suspend Glover.
"Accordingly, the MRP has not cited the incident pursuant to the regulations."
Initially planning a 20th-minute walkout to protest the APL's decision to sell hosting rights to the next three A-League Men's (ALM) and A-League Women's grand finals to New South Wales, supporters of both City and Victory ignited flares and small fireworks throughout the opening exchanges of the derby, with City fans the first to throw missiles onto the field in celebration of Aiden O'Neill's 11th-minute opener.
Victory fans followed suit as the moment of the planned walkout approached -- hitting and injuring a Network Ten cameraman with a projectile -- and Glover subsequently threw two flares that had landed near him off the field at around the 22nd-minute mark, the second of which carried into Victory supporters' section.
Approximately 150 fans stormed the field moments later, with one throwing a metal bucket filled with sand at the keeper's head which resulted in him being hospitalised with lacerations to the face and a concussion. Attempting to protect Glover from the advancing fans, King was also hit by the bucket and suffered a gash to the face.
Two security guards were also injured during the ensuing chaos as pitch invaders turned their focus to attacking nearby sponsor boarding and the goals, causing an estimated $AUD 150,000 worth of damage.
"In those situations, you never know what's going to happen," City interim coach Rado Vidosic said. "But we don't believe that he did anything wrong and the decision [not to suspend] is correct."
After being issued with a show cause notice for the actions of their supporters, Victory were issued with a first preliminary round of sanctions by Football Australia on Friday that restricts attendance and active support at their ALM fixtures until Jan.15.
Investigations by Football Australia and Victoria Police are still ongoing, meaning further punishments are likely to come in the new year.
Inquiries into the actions of their fans also in progress and City were hit with a ban on active support for their next two games.
At least 29 people have been arrested by Victoria Police's Operation Astute investigation into the pitch invasion and 24 charged with various offences, including four men allegedly responsible for the attacks that resulted in injuries.
Football Australia has to this point issued bans to 10 individuals, two for life and the other eight ranging in length from five to 20 years. Beyond attending any Football Australia-sanctioned match, they will also be unable to register as a football participant such as a player, coach, or referee.