Melbourne Police Admit 'More Arrests Would Have Sparked More Violence

MELBOURNE Australia (AP) - Rival fans rioted and threw flares at a soccer match and police admitted Monday they arrested only two men because any further crowd intervention likely would have sparked more violence.

Police said Monday that about 400 fans out of a crowd estimated at about 9000 at Bob Jane Stadium clashed Sunday night. The Preston Lions supported predominantly by Macedonians from the former Yugoslavia scored a 1-0 upset win over the home team South Melbourne which is supported mainly by expatriate Greeks.

At the end of the game a group of spectators jumped the fence and ran onto the ground to celebrate with their players. Fans from both sides hurled flares and bottles despite heavy security measures at the ground.

Four police officers including two on horseback suffered minor injuries. One man was charged with assault and another with firing a flare.

Acting Supt. Chris Duthie said Monday that police did not make further arrests at the scene because that could have inflamed the situation.

"The police could do little else than just control the crowd'' he said. "If we had gone in and made numerous arrests we would have lost our personnel.''

In March rioting between Serbian and Croatian fans in Sydney caused a future match between two clubs to be postponed indefinitely. Two people were arrested and two police officers injured in that incident.