NPL Victoria club Melbourne Knights are preparing to challenge the FFA's National Club Identity Policy in the courts
Melbourne Knights have fired a broadside at the FFA regarding their controversial National Club Identity Policy (NCIP), threatening to take the governing body to court for racial discrimination.
The Knights, who play in the National Premier Leagues Victoria, were left frustrated before their FFA Cup round of 32 clash with Brisbane-based club Olympic on July 29, as the FFA refused to approve their specially-made shirts for their return to the national stage.
The two-time Australian champions in the National Soccer League - the precursor to the A-League - had organised a sponsorship deal with Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club - the social club that owns the Knights' stadium and surrounding land in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine.
But according to the Knights, the FFA claimed the sponsorship deal was not allowed under their NCIP, which had been unveiled on June 26.
According to the FFA, the policy will 'promote football as Australia's most inclusive, accessible and multicultural sport'.
The NCIP restricts new football clubs from using languages other than English and symbols with 'any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination' in their names or logos, as well as any existing clubs that are seeking to change their names or logos.
The Knights allege they proved their sponsorship deal with Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club and similar agreements with Australian Croatian Association Melbourne and Australian Croatian Association Geelong were acceptable under the NCIP but that the FFA then changed the rules.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Knights claimed the FFA sent a memo on July 24, which stated they would only approve playing kits that had been used at the time of qualification for the FFA Cup.
Brisbane Strikers, who took on Broadmeadow Magic in the FFA Cup on the same day as the Knights, 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.
Despite that, the Knights contend they were 'coerced and pressured' into using their regular league kits against Olympic in Brisbane, which prompted their vice-president Pave Jusup to lodge a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club president Ange Cimera lodged a similar complaint and, according to the Knights, these complaints have been accepted by the Human Rights Commission and passed onto the FFA.
In their statement, the Knights warned they have 'already retained legal representation and [they are] ready to challenge the FFA's National Club Identity Policy in the Federal Circuit Court'.
The club's statement should prolong the testy relationship between them and the FFA, with Knights officials privately frustrated with the governing body after their goalkeeper Chris May was handed a six-month suspension last week for 'unsporting conduct toward a match official'.
May was red-carded after the final whistle of the Knights' 3-1 loss to Olympic for throwing a ball at referee Alex King and then making contact with the official.
Goal Australia has contacted the FFA requesting a comment and are awaiting their response.