George Calombaris has apologized for shoving a football fan in the stands at Allianz Stadium following Sunday’s A-League grand final.
The Master Chef judge, George Calombaris and avid Melbourne Victory fan, was on the pitch at the conclusion of the match – which Victory lost to Sydney FC in a penalty shootout – when he reacted to something said in the crowd.
The incident was captured in a video in which a man is heard shouting, “Pay your staff, you dodgy bastard”, a reference to the recent revelation that George Calombaris restaurant group had underpaid more than 160 people by $2.6m over six years.
Calombaris approached the fans in the stands and got involved in a heated discussion which ended with him pushing a man. It was unclear from the video whether it was the man who delivered the jibe over unpaid wages.
George Calombaris released a statement on Monday expressing regret for his actions, which he said were in response to abuse aimed at his family.
“I am really disappointed with what occurred last night,” he said. “I was genuinely shocked when post-match football banter turned into personal abuse about my family.
“I regret the way in which I reacted, I am disappointed that I let it get to me, and I sincerely apologise for offending anyone.
“While I am not proud of my reaction to the situation, I was offended by a spectator yelling out abusive and derogatory comments about my family.
“I have spoken to Melbourne Victory FC and Football Federation Australia today to report the situation and I’m truly sorry that this has happened.”
Calombaris, one of the best Greek chefs in the world, was eventually led away by fellow MasterChef judge Matt Preston after a police officer intervened.
Calombaris, known for speaking his mind in the MasterChef kitchen, is no stranger to controversy. He made headlines in 2012 when he blamed weekend penalty rates for making the restaurant industry uneconomical, saying of staff: “And it’s not like they’ve had to go to uni for 15 years.”
Calombaris was seen being consoled on the pitch after Sydney FC won Sunday’s penalty shootout 4-2 to claim their third A-League title and draw level with Victory in the all-time winners column.