FFA clarifies club identity policy

Adelaide United finished top of the pile in the inaugural season of the FFA Cup. (Getty) Source: Getty Images

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has moved to clear up confusion over its National Club Identity Policy (NCIP), after Western Australian club Gwelup Croatia was warned its logo and name 'Croatia' may need to be changed if it qualified for the final 32 of the FFA Cup.

A spokesperson for Gwelup Croatia confirmed to SBS the club was informed by Football West that its name and logo might contravene FFA's National Club Identity Policy should it qualify for the FFA Cup Round of 32. 

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When contacted by The World Game, a spokesperson for the governing body said it did not make a directive to either Football West or Gwelup Croatia regarding the existing name or logo of Gwelup Croatia in relation to the 2015 tournament.

"To that extent the Club's current logo and name was in existence before the implementation of the NCIP, and they have not been changed since the implementation of the NCIP, then the club name and logo does not currently give rise to any breach of the NCIP," FFA said.

Football West confirmed to SBS there was no directive to Gwelup Croatia from either them nor FFA. An email addressed to Gwelup Croatia, dated June 17, 2015 and signed by Football West CEO Keith Wood, reads:

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to congratulate Gwelup Croatia on your progress in the Westfield FFA Cup to date. However, I also wanted to raise an issue that MAY come up if you win your Round 7 match this weekend. Although we have yet to speak to FFA on this, it is extremely unlikely that you would be permitted to compete under the name "Gwelup Croatia" in the Round of 32. It is also unlikely you would be able to keep your current crest for the Round of 32 or retain anything on your playing strip that contravenes the National Club Identity Policy.Should you win, we shall talk to FFA and yourselves to discuss the matter. Best of luck on Sunday!

FFA's National Club Identity Policy was released in June 2014. It advises that football clubs will not have names that contain "ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination." An FFA spokesperson told SBS the policy "generally" does not apply retrospectively to clubs with existing ethnic, national, political, racial or religious signifiers.

"However, there are circumstances where Existing Clubs may trigger the application of the NCIP through certain conduct," FFA said.

The FFA takes over running the FFA Cup in the Round of 32. Gwelup Croatia was registered for the tournament through Football West's state-based Cup tournament - the Cool Ridge Cup - which is the qualifying series for the FFA Cup Round of 32. As a team affiliated with the Amateur competition in Western Australia, it was invited to participate in this season's cup tournament. Gwelup's loss to Perth SC on Sunday means that Perth SC and Sorrento qualify for the final 32 of the FFA Cup.

The scope and implementation of the NCIP has been a source of some confusion. In 2014, Maccabi Hakoah Sydney City participated in the Round of 32 of the FFA Cup with the Jewish Star of David on its crest. Shamrock Rovers from Darwin was welcomed into the competition this year, with the FFA's website using an Irish pun in its match preview.

However, in 2014 Melbourne Knights was prevented, in a series of eleventh-hour emails between the club and FFA, from having 'Melbourne Croatia' as its shirtfront sponsor in the Round of 32 clash against Olympic FC. A complaint has since been made by Melbourne Knights to the Human Rights Commission.

SBS understands that Stirling Lions, formerly known as Stirling Macedonia, was prevented from displaying the Vergina sun on its jersey for the 2014 FFA Cup. The directive, sent by FFA Cup organisers on August 18, 2014, read:

FFA does not approve the 'Vergina Sun' symbol proposed to appear on the right chest of Stirling Lions home playing shirts. The 'Vergina Sun' is an ethnic identifier and therefore is in breach of clause 4 of the National Club Identity Policy (NCIP) which requires that a Club must not use, advertise or promote (or permit any other person or entity to use, advertise or promote) any ethnic, racial, religious or political identifiers in connection or association with the Club. Accordingly, FFA requires the 'Vergina Sun' symbol be removed or covered on Stirling Lions FFA Cup playing strip.

Stirling Lions vice-president George Filev told SBS the club has worn both the Vergina sun and its club logo as part of its playing strip since before the introduction of the National Club Identity Policy.

Filev said Stirling Lions considered withdrawing from the FFA Cup over the issue, particularly after being forced to play the fixture away from its home ground, Macedonia Park, but felt it had no clout as a small amateur club.

"We would have liked to have the [Vergina sun] badge, which is one of the symbols of the club, on the shirt," Filev said. "We wear both badges but we had to cover it up with the FFA Cup badge."

An FFA spokesperson clarified the Stirling Lions situation thus: "Last season Stirling Lions submitted a playing strip to FFA for the round of 32, as required by the Westfield FFA Cup Competition Regulations. The playing strip included the Vergina Sun symbol as a stand-alone symbol on the shirt and it did not appear as part of the Club's official club logo or name. That version of the playing strip was not approved as the Vergina Sun is an ethnic identifier and depicting the Vergina Sun in such a manner was a breach of the NCIP."

A spokesperson for Football West told SBS they would support the right of Gwelup Croatia and all Western Australian clubs to "retain their identity in line with the National Club Identity Policy".

Source SBS