Shepparton crowd issues tarnish BASL season

Shepparton Soccer Club (red and black) in action against Strathdale earlier this season.
Shepparton Soccer Club (red and black) in action against Strathdale earlier this season.

The future of Shepparton-based clubs in the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League will be under threat if unsavoury off-field incidents continue.

Shepparton, Shepparton United, Shepparton South and Tatura entered the BASL in 2017 and, while the clubs have improved the on-field standard and eveness of the competition, there have been several crowd-involved issues that have tarnished the first half of the season.

The Shepparton United versus Tatura clash on May 21 was marred by an ugly brawl involving up to 20 people at the end of the game where Tatura import Tariq Nikoi-Kotey was racially vilified.

On a separate occasion two fans jumped the fence and threw punches at an Eaglehawk player at a Shepparton-based venue.

Some Bendigo-based players have also alleged they’ve been threatened verbally by fans, including threats of harm to their family members.

“We’re aware there were some cultural issues that led the Shepparton competition to fold in the first place,’’ BASL president Adam Woods said.

“We weren’t expecting there to be no issues (this year), but we provided a three-year trial window for the Shepparton clubs. 

“Very clearly the Shepparton clubs were incentivised to address those issues because those issues are not something we want in our league and we’re very protective of our competition and its standards.

“What appears to be taking place is some off-field actions from spectators that are not necessarily members of those clubs.  What we are seeing is those clubs being pro-active to taking action to address the problems.

“The Shepparton clubs have taken action for all their players and members to undertake FFV respect and responsibility courses as compulsory elements for their continued involvement in the club.

“As a league, we’re comfortable the actions of the Shepparton clubs are being pro-active in trying to correct these behavioural  anomalies. 

“We suspect there’s some outside influences that are not club members, which are a reflection of broader issues in the Shepparton community, that the clubs are having to deal with.”

Loss of points and financial penalties are options for the BASL to impose should the issues continue.

The BASL entered a three-year trial period with the Shepparton-based clubs, but the league does have an option to pull the pin on the deal at the end of 2017.

“We can (end the relationship with Shepparton clubs after one year), but that’s not in our thinking at the moment,’’ Woods said.

“We’ll sit down and review our position at the end of the season. We’re very satisfied that the actions of the clubs, their officials and their committees are doing all they can to address the issues.”