Aussie team banned after violence

SYDNEY: An Australian football team was suspended for the rest of the season yesterday following an inquiry into a spate of ethnic-related crowd violence which has prompted tough laws to outlaw hooligans. 

New South Wales (NSW) state football chiefs said Sydney United would be banned for four matches after dozens of fans from their Croatian support base battled with followers of the Serbian-backed Bonnyrigg White Eagles at a ground in suburban Sydney last March. 

In the days after the clash, shots were fired at one Serbian community club and a car was firebombed at another. 

“The lunatic fringe whose conduct brought the club's suspension should hang their heads in shame,” Soccer NSW president Tom Doumanis said. 

Fans of the two clubs clashed again at the return leg last Saturday and officials said the White Eagles would face a similar punishment to Sydney United if the scenes were repeated. 

Australian football has long been plagued by tensions between rival ethnic groups, with clashes last month between the Greek community's South Melbourne and the Macedonian-backed Preston Lions another recent example. 

The game's administrators have organised a new national competition with a “one city-one team” model in an attempt to ensure support is defined by geographic location rather than ethnic background. – AFP 

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