On the 18th of September the CEO of the Football Federation of Australia, David Gallop, addressed the media at a press conference that was streamed via SBS on the “State of The Game.” He wore a badge on the lapel of his suit stating “We are Football,” and in the opening minute of his address he referred to the “Football Family.”
These two phrases are becoming cliches in Australian football as they are simply words that are not backed up with actions from the game’s governing body.
There are several interpretations for the word “family,” but most involved with the game envisaged the FFA’s usage to embrace the meaning that says in the Oxford Dictionary, a ‘group of related peoples or of objects having a common cause.’ Sadly the longer the phrase is bandied about at will by the game’s administrators, the further the meaning moves from such an interpretation.
Not The Footy Show ran a piece on this site (Football Cleansing a Step Too Far) in July about how the FFA’s National Club Identity Policy flew in the face of Australian Race law; advice having been sought by a lawyer in that field. This policy like many others introduced by the FFA are far removed from a family feel; there is little love or nurturing involved. They are the policies of a dictatorial head of the family.
Never was this more apparent than in the last 24 hours when the FFA threatened the Melbourne Knights football club, who have challenged them on this very policy, that they face the possibility of not being permitted to play in sanctioned competitions such as the Victorian Premier League, National Premier League and FFA Cup.
This is if the club opts to breach the identity policy, which prohibits registered football clubs from adding ethnic, religious, political or broad geographic symbols, words or imagery to their name, logo or jersey.
The Melbourne Knights are heading to the Australian Human Rights Commission where they have lodged a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. It is believed the FFA are still questioning the validity of the complaint, and are standing by their dubious policy. What caused the two to go head to head was the FFA chosing to ban the Melbourne Knights’ sponsorship deal with two Croatian community clubs for their FFA Cup match against Olympic FC on July 29.
Rather than sit around the table and try and sort the problem out as most ‘families’ would do, the FFA have threatened to expel the ‘child’ for standing up to the ‘father.’ They refused to even enter mediation on the matter.
This should be a warning sign to all clubs around the country, especially those with any links to a foreign past. All of these clubs, if they wish to hang onto that history and tradition should stand alongside Melbourne Knights. Just to make it clear how wrong this policy is an Aboriginal team could not be created and give itself a traditional name and play under the FFA’s new rules!
The Melbourne Knights should be commended for stating that they will not back down, and that they will pursue the matter through the Federal Court system if the need arises.
There will be some who will sneer at their stance, just as many players did when Jean Marc Bosman challenged the transfer system in 1995. Bosman was playing for RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division and his contract had expired in 1990. He wanted to move to Dunkerque, in France. However, the move fell through when Dunkerque refused to meet his Belgian club’s demand for a transfer fee, so Liège refused to let him go. His wages were reduced and he was no longer a first-team player. He took his case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and sued for restraint of trade citing FIFA’s rules regarding football, specifically Article 17. The decision went in his favour and banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid. One man changed the game for the best for others. Will it be the case of one club doing the same in Australia?
Sadly Bosman paid a heavy price. After winning his case, which took five years, he has allegedly now lost the money he won from the hearing and has descended into alcoholism and depression whilst living on social benefits. In fact in April last year he was sentenced to a year in prison for an alcohol related incident.
Bosman stood alone, just as it appears the Melbourne Knights are. Where are all the members of the family? Are they too afraid to stand as one against the father figure? Can the FFA ban every club that decides to stand up and be counted with the Melbourne Knights and defend what is fair and right in a truly ethnically diverse country?
Once again football clubs around the country have a chance to make their voice heard, once again they have the chance to stand as one and stop something that is simply wrong, and could destroy the history of the game as we know it. Yet those same clubs who suddenly have gone mute will continue to bemoan their lot, the lack of support from the FFA, the lack of funding, FFA Cup games being moved etcetera. Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right and with one small victory others will follow.
When the Melbourne Knights are victorious let us see how many then suddenly find their voices.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure it is time to bin those “We are Football” badges because they are simply the sort of tack that comes out during US elections. They are a slogan not backed by actions. A five minute conversation with most of the people who wear them and you realise they are new to the game, and have absolutely no feel for its history or its passion. As for the “Football Family,” families have arguments, where both sides shout at each other and voice their opinions, but the lucky ones still sit down and eat at the same table when the dust has settled. The FFA do not appear to want to break bread, so this is no family. Where there is no respect there can be no love, no encouragement, no understanding, or forgiveness. So let us stop hiding behind slogans with no feeling or meaning. No one believes them anymore, except for maybe those who wear the badges and spout the words; who knows maybe this is how they justify what they are saying and doing is in fact right.