Melbourne Heart lose blue over club colours
An objection by the A-League’s original Sky Blues, Sydney FC, was upheld by Football Federation Australia and an independent arbiter, Fairfax Media reports.
It might not be the end of the colour clash, however, with a potential challenge in the Supreme Court an option for the English Premier League giants and their Abu Dhabi-based owners.
But the news is likely to meet with jubilation by a large and vocal section of the Melbourne club’s fan base keen to retain a distinct culture.
The club is on course for a name change to Melbourne City but a wholesale revamp of the club colours was seen as a bridge too far.
The grievance hearing last week followed a ruling by FFA chief David Gallop to reject Heart's bid to wear the Sky Blue.
A-League chief Damien de Bohun told Fairfax: "While the introduction of Manchester City into the A-League is a fantastic opportunity, we made the decision having regard to the fact that we are only a 10-team competition with young brands in a highly competitive environment.
“Approving the change would have meant two teams with home shirts of an almost identical colour. We will consider any proposals put forward in the interests of achieving the right balance."
Sydney chairman Scott Barlow was pleased with the outcome after the harboursiders lodged a formal complaint in April.
"We support the FFA's decision not to approve Melbourne Heart's proposal to wear a sky blue home strip," Barlow said.
"We also support the decision handed down yesterday by the independent arbitrator to uphold the FFA's decision.
"The A-League is a young competition with only 10 teams and the idea of two teams wearing sky blue and embracing a sky blue identity is not in the interests of the league. This is a very good decision for Sydney FC and the A-League as a whole."
But after making a sizeable investment in the fledgling league through Heart, City may feel it has a right to make crucial decisions concerning the running of the club.
A statement from Heart on Wednesday read: "The club remains in constructive discussions with the FFA on a range of matters relating to its future plans including its playing strips.
"On the matter of colours, as we have said previously, any decisions made in relation to the club's identity will be guided by the traditions of our existing fan base, including their passion for red and white, and the opportunities provided by our new ownership."
City’s investment in Heart earlier this year followed the establishment of US club New York City FC in May 2013 and, more recently, the purchase of a 20 per cent stake in J. League side Yokohama F. Marinos.
In January Gallop descibed the acquisition of the Heart licence was a huge vote of confidence in the future of the A-League.
“Football has moved into the mainstream of Australian sport and is ideally placed to benefit from the boom in football across Asia,” Gallop said.
“Manchester City and their Australian partners have made a strategic investment and I welcome them to our growing competition. It’s another sign that the world is taking notice of Australian football."
He added the involvement of City would "bring a high level of expertise in football and sports business matters and that can only strengthen the Melbourne Heart and the Hyundai A-League as a whole.”