Melbourne Knights report FFA over ethnic policy

A football club with historic links to Croatia has taken action against Football Federation Australian under the Racial Discrimination Act, following controversial restrictions on ethnic badging.

The Melbourne Knights believe they fell foul of the new National Club Identity Policy when three of their four FFA Cup kit sponsors came under suspicion.

FFA confirmed it had had “received correspondence from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission" over the matter and "will respond in due course.”

In June, football's governing body moved to stamp out ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations from clubs in FFA-approved competitions.

The restrictions only applied to new or revised club names, logos or emblems that breach "inclusive" protocols under a new NCIP.

But the Knights say they felt coerced and pressured when they were forced to dump FFA-Cup specific kits just days out from kick-off.

The Knights allege their sponsorship deal with Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club, Australian Croatian Association Melbourne and Australian Croatian Association Geelong met the guidelines of the NCIP but that the FFA changed the rules.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the club claimed an FFA memo on July 24 stated only playing kits in use at the time of Cup qualification would be approved.

However Brisbane Strikers, who took on Broadmeadow Magic in the FFA Cup on the same day as the Knights played, released a new kit designed and sponsored by Gorilla Sports four days later and played in it in the main broadcast match on July 29.

In a letter to the FFA, Knights club secretary Melinda Cimera wrote: “The National Club Identity Policy and your enforcement of it to deny a club valuable financial support clearly demonstrates the failure of your vision of an assimilated football community, which fundamentally denies the reality of the game in this country.”

The Victoria National Premier Leagues side was eliminated from the Cup last month after losing 3-1 to Olympic FC in their Round of 32 match.

After the match Ms Cimera and Vice President Pave Jusup lodged official complaints with the Human Rights Commission under the Racial Discrimination Act in what could prove a test case for the fledgling policy.

The club says it is prepared to launch action in the Federal Court if a resolution cannot be reached.

A statement from FFA said the NCIP "has the key principle of promoting football as Australia’s most inclusive, accessible and multicultural sport.

 “Football is now a part of the mainstream of Australian society and has achieved that status while also retaining its rich diversity.

 “The intent of the National Club Identity Policy is to ensure the game remains inclusive and accessible, not just in the way we organise ourselves, but in how we engage with the community.

 “We want clubs that embrace all comers, represent their local communities in all their diversity and in so doing unite people through the joy of football".

The Knights were originally launched in 1953 by a small group of Croatian immigrants under the banner SC Croatia.