If ever football fans in Australia wanted proof that the Football Federation of Australia is drastically out of touch, they need go no further than the document released last week, titled “The National Club Identity Policy.”
If there was disharmony on the issue of the National Premier Leagues there is likely to be even more when clubs read this document.
The FFA believe this document and the regulations laid out in it will enhance the growth of football in Australia. Under the the section Application and Scope the FFA graciously acknowledges the importance of immigrant communities in growing the game, but is no longer wanting them to be a part of the game. As section 1.2 reads “FFA acknowledges the multicultural nature of Australia and the valuable contribution that various communities have made to the historical development of football in Australia. FFA also respects Clubs’ desires to acknowledge their heritage and contribution to their local communities. FFA has a responsibility to protect and grow the reputation of the sport of football in Australia and to ensure its openness and accessibility to all Australians.”
The document then flies in the face of Australian law – NTFS sought a legal opinion on this document – as not only does it prevent any club having a name that is not English but it also prevents sponsors from displaying their name in a foreign language. Where this ruling falls over dramatically is that this rule precludes Australia’s traditional owners the Aboriginal people having a team with an Aboriginal name in any football competition in Australia.
Under section 2 of the policy document it states in the section headed “Names and Logos of New Clubs and changes of names and logos of existing clubs” that a club name or logo or emblem “may only contain:
(c) words or letters in English; and/or
- (d) references to the broader geographic area in which the Club is located; and/or
- (e) colours; and/or
- (f) numbers; and/or
- (g) references to flora; and/or
- (h) references to fauna,
provided that these components do not carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination.” Maybe the FFA is so behind that it believes the Aboriginal people are still listed as Flora and Fauna, as they disgracefully were until 1967.
This same rule applies to sponsors, which begs the question as to whether an Italian company such as drinks company San Pellegrino or a French hotelier like Accor would be allowed to sponsor a team as these are not English names. A Chinese or Greek company is not allowed to have its language on a team’s shirt, so why should these, if the rules are to be applied. In fact let us hope that these rules extend to the Hyundai A-League as well, as it would be incredibly unfair to allow a showpiece team to carry such sponsorship, and not a team that receives no funding at all from the FFA.
This is indeed a very sad day. Football around the world was often built on the back of religion. In fact the book “Thank God For Football” by Peter Lupson focusses on the very fact that at the time of his writing 12 of the 39 clubs to have graced the English Premier League were formed out of the Church. In New South Wales Epping YMCA football Club has over 1100 members of both sexes. The Epping YMCA FC Ladies are a founding member of the North West Sydney Women’s Football Association and have represented the club at the highest level, winning multiple association titles, and regularly contesting the Champions of Champions and State Cup competitions, yet now they will have to drop the YMCA as it has religious connotations.
If the FFA were running football in England would they want Portsmouth FC to change its badge? The badge features a crescent moon with a star above it. It is believed that the badge is the result of King Richard I once granting the city of Portsmouth “a crescent of gold on a shade of azure, with a blazing star of eight points”. The symbol became known to King Richard after he captured Cyprus. Under the FFA rules this link with Cyprus would mean that a club that has been around since 1898 would have to change its badge.
Many a team’s club badge is built upon tradition and heritage, it is an acknowledgement of their past, their history and from where the club was born. Are we seriously to see that history discarded for some modern day American style logos and names. The game in Australia has to start recognising its history. You have to know where you have come from often before you can move forward. The FFA want to throw away the past just as many dictatorships tried to do when they burned books, churches, schools and tabernacles.
Football is a game for the people, all people, boys, girls, men and women. It is a game for people from all corners of the earth, that is why FIFA has more member nations than the United Nations. Football is not played along ethnic, national, political, racial or religious lines; although like in life sometimes those elements cross over onto the field of play, but most of the time they are never an issue.
The FFA Cup is possibly going to see over fifty years of State Cup competitions thrown out of the window. Now we face the possibility of clubs who kept the game alive being forced to discard their history. That is quite simply, wrong.
Last year in Western Australia Bassendean Caledonians celebrated 100 years of existence. Under these rules their logo will have to change from the rampant lion – associated to Scotland, – so too will their name. It is worth noting that this club’s history has so much more to do with Australia than just football. In 1915 when the First World War broke out the club surrendered its ground to be a camp for the AIF. All the players signed up to serve their country and only five of the Caledonian first team regulars returned from the war. In fact one of their players is featured in a famous image from Gallipoli. Other clubs around the country made similar sacrifices. In Victoria, 450 out of 500 registered soccer players enlisted for World War One, the same percentage stats applied across the country; By comparison, the VFL managed only around 15% of its players.
It seems crass that the changes should be raised on the eve of the anniversary of that War. It also seems wrong that as the game celebrates a truly international tournament the FFA opts to take those very same cultural points of difference away, and try to homogenise the game, a move that goes completely away from Australia’s multicultural life.
Surely we owe it to those from yesteryear to keep these clubs names and badges alive, as much as to the history of the game. We also owe it to the Aboriginal people who we want to take up our game, to have the option to name a team in their traditional languages. To prevent that in the modern era is quite simply not in the interests of the game as a whole.