A Bendigo soccer referee says some Shepparton-based clubs need to curb the on and off-field aggression that has flared at times during the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League.
Adrian Richardson said the league’s four new clubs – Shepparton, Shepparton United, Shepparton South and Tatura – had improved the footballing standard of BASL this year, but behaviour must improve in the interest of player and spectator safety.
“The Shepparton guys need to understand that we're not out there to fight - we're out there to play a game,” he said.
“The behaviour of certain fans and players needs to improve. On and off-field aggression can cause injury to players and spectators.”
Richardson, who has refereed a mixture of senior and reserve games this season, said there had been a “huge increase” in red cards this season, which wasn’t due to a change in refereeing directives.
According to BASL’s fixed penalty notice register, 33 of the 74 suspensions across all playing grades this year came from violent conduct, abusive language or spitting.
Of those 33 suspensions, 48 per cent were received by Shepparton-based players.
There are four Shepparton sides in a BASL league of 12 teams.
And 36 per cent of the mentioned suspensions – 12 – came during youth or women fixtures, which comprised a mix of Bendigo and Shepparton-based clubs.
“As far as the referees are concerned we can discipline and much as we can but it gets to a point where the club need to discipline its players,” Richardson said.
Shepparton South president Gino Cirillo said the players weren’t the problem, more a couple of sides “with ordinary supporters”.
“The clubs that have got the problem need to weed out these spectators,” he said.
Aside from a few issues, the standard of the league had impressed Cirillo, who suggested his club had a good rapport with all the Bendigo-based clubs.
Shepparton United president Mark Georgiou said most games had been played in a competitive spirit, and some clubs “were still getting used to one another”.
He said all clubs would meet with the BASL to conduct an end-of-season review to consider areas for improvement.
The president of Tatura, a team involved 20-person brawl with Shepparton United in May, said apart from that isolated incident, crowd and player behaviour had been good.
Mimmo Lia said some clubs’ fans didn’t agree with the mantra ‘what happens on the field stays on the field’.
“Some people don’t see it that way,” he said.
Their comments follow a series of ugly off-field incidents during a senior preliminary final between Eaglehawk and Shepparton United on Sunday.
Allegations of threats of violence, abusive language and spitting from rival fans prompted some spectators, including children, to watch the game from the safety of the clubrooms.
The BASL entered a three-year trial period with four Shepparton-based clubs – Shepparton, Shepparton United, Shepparton South and Tatura – that joined the league this year.
But the league does have an option to pull the pin on the deal at the end of 2017.
The Bendigo Advertiser contacted Football Federation Victoria’s Bendigo referee branch, BASL and Shepparton for comment.