|The Gold Coast replaced the Hyatt logo with the Freedom of Speech emblem against Melbourne Victory [GALLO/GETTY]|
A-League club Gold Coast United will continue to defy Football Federation Australia (FFA) and send their players out in a strip bearing the slogan ‘Freedom of Speech’ for the remainder of the season.
The FFA considered cancelling Gold Coast’s match against Melbourne Victory at the weekend because of the slogan, which replaced the logo of club sponsors Hyatt on the front of the team’s shirts.
The row is muddied because of the ongoing war of words between outspoken club owner Clive Palmer and the FFA and its chief executive Ben Buckley.
Club chief executive Clive Mensink said on Monday that the FFA had “overreacted” to the use of the slogan, which he said was being used to highlight the plight of refugees.
“It is public knowledge that Mr Palmer’s group of companies are in a legal dispute with the Hyatt and, as a result, the club wasn’t comfortable playing with the Hyatt brand on the playing strips,” Mensink said in a statement.
“It was suggested internally that as a replacement, something non-controversial would serve as a message to the
“We currently have two African refugees playing for the club who have experienced what it is like to live in a country
fighting for freedom of speech.
“We thought it was an innocent term as we all recognise in Australia that freedom of speech is something we all respect.”
The FFA issued a statement on Saturday saying the club, currently bottom of the 10-team league with four rounds
remaining, was in “material breach” of its Club Participation Agreement (CPA) over the use of the slogan.
“The club did not have FFA approval for usage of the slogan on the playing strip and on stadium signage as required under the terms of its participation in the A-League,” Buckley said.
“It is our constitutional right to embrace this message and we don’t believe FFA should have the power to intervene”
Club chief executive Clive Mensink
“FFA directed the club not to use the slogan on the playing strip or in signage… The club declined to comply with the FFA direction and proceeded regardless.”
Palmer, a billionaire mining magnate, said last week that soccer was a “hopeless” game and that he preferred rugby league, a comment which Buckley condemned as “offensive to the players, coaches, administrators and volunteers who are the life and soul of Australian football”.
Mensink said the slogan had nothing to do with the row.
“It is our constitutional right to embrace this message and we don’t believe FFA should have the power to intervene,”
“Fans and the public deserve to know and have the right to freedom of speech, and it’s a slogan which we will keep until the end of the season and possibly next season as well.”