Football Australia starts disciplinary action against Sydney United 58 over fascist songs and salutes from fans

<span>Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP</span>
Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Football Australia has started the process for disciplinary action against Sydney United 58 after some of the club’s supporters displayed Nazi symbols and salutes during the Australia Cup final.

It came as United, formerly known as Sydney Croatia, issued a statement late on Sunday night condemning supporters who booed the pre-match welcome to country and the national anthem, sang fascist songs, displayed symbols associated with the far-right movement Ustaše and made Hitler salutes visible on camera.

Football Australia (FA) on Monday issued United with a show-cause notice under its national code of conduct and ethics, setting out the alleged misconduct by “a small minority of individuals” at Commbank Stadium on Saturday night, and giving the club until Friday to submit an explanation for the governing body to consider.

An FA spokesperson declined to speculate on the nature of any potential punishment, apart from indicating it is prepared to come down hard on what the New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, called “absolutely horrendous” behaviour.

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On Monday Perrottet said life bans should be imposed on some spectators.

FA has previously handed A-League Men clubs big fines and suspended points penalties for fan misconduct, including the lighting of flares and offensive banners.

“Sydney United 58 FC has zero tolerance towards any form of disrespect, racism or discrimination and is working closely with authorities to conduct a full investigation,” the club’s board said in a statement which was published on Facebook.

“The club strongly condemns any behaviour that does not reflect the wider views of the club, and its loyal supporters. It is also encouraging to see the wider football community denounce this on social media.”

The match was supposed to be a historic occasion for United, a former National Soccer League heavyweight which became the first non-A-League team to reach the final of the knockout tournament contested by 742 clubs from around Australia.

A record 16,461-strong crowd turned out in Parramatta to watch Macarthur FC win 2-0 via two penalties. But the night was overshadowed by a section of United fans who sang “Za Dom Spremni” (“for homeland – ready”) – a chant used by the Ustaše movement in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Ustaše was a fascist group that collaborated with the Nazis during the second world war and participated in war crimes, ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide including the establishment of the Jasenovac concentration camp where Jews, Serbs, Roma, other minority groups and political opponents were murdered.

FA was quick to denounce those involved, but emphasised most supporters were well behaved. Eight people were evicted from the stadium.

United, which was founded by Croatian immigrants in 1958, indicated it is cooperating fully with FA and NSW Police to identify the individuals involved.

“The club is deeply committed to creating an environment that is respectful and inclusive, which also allows our community members to celebrate their heritage in a meaningful and responsible way,” United said.

“Those that do not align themselves with these values are not welcome at Sydney United 58 FC and their views will never be tolerated. Multiculturalism and inclusivity are two of the game’s fundamental pillars and will continue to be a priority for our Club and its supporters.”

The unsavoury incidents have made their way to the top of state government, with Perrottet calling them “terrible”.

“It was absolutely horrendous,” he said. “It has no place, not just at sporting games, but anywhere in our state. If they are caught, there should be life bans in place. Once they are caught, they are not going back to a game in this state.”

The chair of FA’s National Indigenous Advisory Group, Jade North, said he was in contact with Erin Wilkins, who delivered the welcome to country, and would provide advice throughout the investigation process.

“It is extremely disappointing that respect for the cultures and practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is not met by some sections of Australian society today in the same spirit in which it is extended,” North said in a statement on Sunday night.

“The incidents last night caused by some individuals and groups in the stadium was ignorant and intended to drown out the welcome to country. This type of behaviour was disrespectful and must not continue in our game and attitudes must change.”

On Monday morning FA issued a statement saying: “Football Australia today confirms that a show cause notice under the national code of conduct and ethics – supporter behaviour, has been issued to Sydney United. In accordance with this code, the club has the opportunity to provide submissions on a number of alleged infringements contained within the notice.

“The club has separately been also asked to help identify individuals who displayed anti social and harmful behaviour.”