By: Tom Hines
A dispute between Football Federation Australia and the Melbourne Knights Football Club looks destined to become an ongoing legal battle, with the FFA so far ruling out any chance of mediation.
Melbourne Knights lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission in August after the FFA blocked a move by the club to display sponsorship from the ‘Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club Inc.’
The FFA claims the sponsorship, which was set to appear on the front of the Knight’s jerseys for their July 29 FFA cup encounter with Olympic FC, is in breach of the controversial new National Club Identity Policy.
The policy, which was only introduced in June, declares that football clubs may not add any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious references to their name, logo or playing strip.
The FFA says the policy is aimed at making Football more inclusive but the Vice President of Melbourne Knights, Pave Jusup, believes it is evidence of the FFA’s “hypocrisy”, when dealing with ethnicity in the game.
“In the actual policy itself, it says the FFA respects and accepts the multicultural nature of Australia and the rights and wishes of the clubs in honoring their [ethnic] histories”.
“[The FFA] say we want you to celebrate your culture, but this is how we want you to do it. It doesn’t work like that”.
The Knights lodged their complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 and are currently preparing to take the fight to the FFA but they run the risk of being sanctioned for their actions.
The FFA have warned the clubs administrators that the team will be banned from sanctioned competitions if they do not comply with the policy.
But threats won’t worry the Knights, who say they will take the issue to the Federal Circuit Court if their appeal to the human rights commission should fail.
“I’d push for the abolition of the whole policy if possible because its just wrong and morally bankrupt”, says Jusup, “but if we have to concede some points then legitimate promotion of a sponsor is one definite point where they should not have any power in deciding who and what your sponsor is”.
“They have made it quite clear that if we are seeking the abolishment of the policy they will not meet with us because they are not entertaining that thought at all, so that’s where we are at now”.
The commission is currently in discussions with the FFA as it continues its investigations into the matter.
Jusup anticipates that the Knights won’t hear a response until around halfway through next month, when the FFA will formally announce their intentions to either back down over the issue and enter mediation or step up their legal preparations.