National soccer body faces legal challenges by clubs

The Australian Soccer Federation could face legal challenges on two fronts, barely a month before the national Coca-Cola Soccer League is due to start its 1992-93 season.
The federation commissioners are under siege by officials of Sydney club APIA, which has been excluded from the Coca-Cola league, and by Victorian CCSL clubs angered by the commissioners’ decision that some clubs must change their names.

APIA president Ron Orsatti said yesterday that he would seek a court injunction that might delay the league’s kick-off if APIA lost an appeal, now before the federation, against its exclusion.

A spokesman for the Melbourne-based CCSL clubs, solicitor Peter Mitrakis, said that as a last resort, the clubs would seek a court order restraining the commissioners from forcing name changes.

South Melbourne Hellas, Melbourne Croatia, Preston Makedonia and Heidelberg Alexander, supported by influential officials of the VSF, are claiming that the Australian federation commissioners are acting unlawfully and contrary to the federation constitution in the way they are ordering clubs to change their names.

A meeting at the Hellas club on Monday night voted that it was unfair for Marconi and Sydney Olympic to be permitted to retain their names while the names of other clubs were being outlawed.

The ASF commissioners have ruled against club names denoting a foreign town, province or city, or any name that has politicial connotations. Mitrakis argued yesterday that while Marconi did not fall into those categories, neither did Alexander, which, like Marconi, was a person’s name.

Neither could the commissioners’ ruling apply to the name Hellas, since the Greek word for Greece was Ellatha, not Hellas. Yet Olympic should be prohibited because it was a derivation of the Greek Olympus. Moreover, if Juventus were ever promoted to the CCSL, it should not have to change its name, because Juventus simply meant youth in Latin.

“In short, there are too many inconsistencies. Either all ethnic names are changed, or none at all,” Mitrakis said.

Monday’s meeting decided to reject the ASF commissioners’ names edict, claiming it was contrary to: Two recommendations by the CCSL policy review committee of 20June and 28August; The ASF’s implied acceptance of the CCSL clubs under their existing names for the 1992-93 season; The requirements of natural justice and anti-discrimination legislation; The Bradley Report on soccer reforms, which was incorporated into the federation’s constitution.

The meeting agreed that it would accept the commissioners’ edict only if it applied also to Marconi and Sydney Olympic.

The meeting also opposed a $10,000 increase, to $40,000, in the CCSL affiliation fee.

“The clubs are reserving all their legal rights in this matter,” Mitrakis said. “If all else fails, an injunction is a possibility, or we could simply defy the edict.” A meeting on Sunday of about 500 Melbourne Croatia members strongly opposed the commissioners’ attempt to change club names.

Most of the clubs affected have expressed concern that they might lose financial sponsorship from traditional sources if they were forced to adopt new names.

VSF board member George Vasilopoulos, who is also president of Hellas, disputed claims by the ASF commissioners that Coca-Cola, soccer’s major sponsor, and the Special Broadcasting Service, had requested the abolition of ethnic club names.

The commissioners have vowed to stand firm. Unless talks defuse the crisis within a week, Victorian clubs are likely to call a general meeting of the ASF. With support from delegates of the Victorian and New South Wales federations, the clubs would be able to overturn the commissioners’ edict.

Meanwhile, Orsatti said solicitors were preparing to file a Supreme Court action against the Australian federation, should APIA lose its appeal over exclusion from the Coca-Cola league.

APIA was omitted after a provisional liquidator was appointed to the debt-ridden APIA social club.

Orsatti and other businessmen then formed a consortium called APIA Tigers, to take over responsibility for the APIA soccer team, but the federation admitted Morwell Falcons instead.

GARY HASLER, of South Melbourne Hellas, replaces injured Jason Polak in the Socceroo squad that will start its World Cup qualifying campaign against the Solomon Islands in Honiara on Friday.

The squad is: P Wade, M Durakovic, M Petersen, G Hasler (SM-Hellas); A Edwards (Jahor, Malaysia); A Tobin, M Ivanovic, R Zabica, C Veart, E Tapai (Adel C); D Mori, A Marth (Melb Croatia); T McCulloch, I Gray (Marconi); A Bernal (Syd Olympic); D Stewart (APIA); A Franken (Syd Croatia); G Brown (West Adel).

Laurie Schwab
The Age

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