Image: Kimon Taliadoros and Tal Karp. Credit: Anita Milas
A series of mainstream media articles have detailed governance issues at Football Federation Victoria that have allegedly led to the resignations of three board members, an interim CEO, 30 tribunal members, and jeopardised government funding since October 2016. Journalists in The Australian and Herald Sun have linked these to a tribunal case involving lawyer Aldrin De Zilva and the decision-making of the FFV board in relation to his subsequent ban. TCF has examined these pieces to provide a summary of the issue.
In 2014, Aldrin De Zilva – a lawyer, FFV board member and team manager of the Dandenong Thunder U13 boys team – was reported for directing “offensive, insulting and/or abusive language and/or behaviour” towards a 17-year-old female referee in a fixture against Goulburn Valley Suns on April 13.
On May 27 it was announced by the FFV that he had resigned along with fellow board member Kimon Taliadoros, a former Socceroo.
On June 26 that year, an independent tribunal found De Zilva guilty, resulting in a two-year ban. He did not attend the hearing – a barrister acted on his behalf instead. De Zilva would later claim there was a more “sinister” reason for his ban, believing he was ousted because he and another accountant lodged complaints to ASIC and Consumer Affairs Victoria that the FFV’s accounts “do not reflect the true and fair view of the organisation”, and that he was “denied a fair hearing”.
In August that year, Peter Gome was appointed FFV CEO, replacing the outgoing Mitchell Murphy who resigned in May.
In late March, 2015, Taliadoros returned to the FFV as president, headlining a high-profile board including former Matilda Tal Karp, who was elected as a director.
A year later at the AGM, Antonella Carè, Kenneth Steel and Sezar Jakupi were elected to the board – the latter was a Thunder chairman at the time of De Zilva’s suspension.
On June 9, 2016, The FFV announced that Peter Gome had resigned. He was replaced by interim Cathy Acocks, who in November 23 (after her own resignation) was replaced by Maxwell Gratton. Gratton had previously worked at the FFV prior to 2014.
On December 12, George Angelopoulos (former head of football operations and head of FFV business affairs between 2004-2008) was appointed to the new position of general manager of football development.
By now, the De Zilva case was back in the headlines surrounding the end of his ban, which months later was followed by a mass resignation by board members. The departures of Tammi Rose, Sandra Lordanic and Karp, along with Acocks, was the beginning of numerous reports by mainstream media in late 2016 and early 2017 about FFV governance regarding this issue.
Herald Sun: ‘Soccer shock as Football Federation Victoria chief, board members quit’ by Peter Rolfe on October 31, 2016.
In late October 2016, three aforementioned board members, Tal Karp (a former Matilda), Sandra Lordanic and Tammi Rose, and interim CEO Cathy Acocks, all resigned from the FFV.
It was reported by the Herald Sun’s Peter Rolfe that the catalyst for the resignations related to Aldrin De Zilva’s case, which, upon completion of the ban, was overturned along with “a full apology” from the federation.
“The board’s governance and decision making processes are inconsistent with our expectations of appropriate board processes,” the resigning board members were quoted as saying.
Rolfe concluded that premier Daniel Andrews’ office, which provides funding to the FFV, was monitoring the situation.
The Australian: ‘FFA under pressure to intervene in misconduct scandal’ by Chip Le Grand on March 11, 2017.
In a series of articles by The Australian’s Chip Le Grand beginning in March 2017, it was first noted that numerous tribunal members had also stepped down as a direct result of the reversal of the De Zilva ruling.
“Taxation lawyer Aldrin De Zilva, last year petitioned the board to overturn the finding against him and a two-year ban from attending games after his one-time political ally, former Socceroo Kimon Taliadoros, was elected as FFV president,” Le Grand wrote.
FFV appeals board chairman Anthony Nolan QC was quoted as saying: “What is the point of volunteering their time and labour to help the FFV in circumstances where the FFV board can just make its own decision and ride roughshod over the tribunal without following its own protocols and procedures for disciplinary matters?’’
However, Taliadoros denied the tribunal decision was ever overturned. Rather, threatened by legal action by De Zilva, the FFV had “reached a settlement that did not interfere with the tribunal’s decision” and that the decision still stood.
De Zilva, in response, claimed this statement was “inconsistent with and contrary to the formal apology I received from the FFV board”, reiterating the tribunal’s decision was made null and void before describing the FFV as a “morally deficient organisation”.
Le Grand also noted FFA CEO David Gallop was being briefed on the situation, as was Victoria’s sports minister John Eren, at a time when the FFV was seeking state government funding for a proposed $17 million redevelopment of the State Football Centre in Thornbury.
The Australian: ‘New details in FFV scandal likely to trigger further resignations’ by Chip Le Grand on March 14, 2017.
This was similarly echoed in an article three days later by Le Grand, which predicted there would be more resignations arising from the ongoing saga.
The article contained quotes from Taliadoros clarifying FFV board statements. He told The Australian that the board did not “overturn those findings” or “declare” them “null and void”, but instead the findings were “considered” by the board to be “null and void from the outset”.
Herald Sun: ‘Tribunal calls foul play’ on Wednesday, 5 April (print only).
Indeed, a number of weeks later it was revealed in the Herald Sun that 30 tribunal members had resigned in protest of “integrity and independence issues”, writing to the FFA and sports minister John Eren that a right to a “fair go” had been removed.
The Australian: ‘Fair Work claim reveals Football Federation Victoria’s turmoil’ by Chip Le Grand on April 10, 2017.
Further, in April, a fourth Le Grand article in The Australian revealed a complaint had been made to the Fair Work Commission against Football Federation Victoria and Taliadoros.
The claim was lodged by former FFV human relations manager Teresa Kyprianou for loss of income, humiliation, stress and anxiety. She accused Taliadoros of “freezing her out of staff appointments in which qualified, well-performing managers were retrenched and replaced by his hand-picked supporters”.
It was also reported that the matter also prompted the Victorian government to withdraw $15 million in funding for a proposed redevelopment of the State Football Centre at Darebin: “Government sources confirm funding will not be made available unless the FFV addresses its governance problems,” the article read.
FFV BOARD STATEMENTS
The following documents are the ones in question regarding the FFV board’s course of action on the De Zilva case.
The October 20, 2016 statement declaring the board’s decision that the conduct of the tribunal was “not in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness”:
The March 10, 2017 statement claiming the decision was, in fact, never reversed, and the board had “adopted a position in relation to the tribunal findings”:
A current FFV link reverts back to the October document.
Of the few to weigh in so far on social media, the release of the series of articles has been linked with the period of time around the establishment of the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) in March 2017. The AAFC is an independent body representing the interests of National Premier League (NPL) clubs nationally (which compete under the state federation umbrellas), which has declared its desire to be included in Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) congress, at a time when the FFA is being pressured by FIFA to reform its own governance structure.
Furthermore, one of AAFC’s key objectives is to campaign for increased acquisition of land for facilities and infrastructure for clubs (i.e competing against other codes for land), and the reported reluctance of the state government to contribute funding following the De Zilva matter could also be linked to this.
It has also been well-documented that The Australian and Herald Sun, both News Corp publications, have previously been noted by the footballing public for their anti-football stories, and Rolfe has been identified as a writer critical of the sport in the past.
May 2014: De Zilva accused of verbally abusing teenage referee at U13 fixture in April.
May 2014: De Zilva and Taliadoros quit FFV board.
June 2014: De Zilva found guilty by tribunal, banned for two years from all games.
August 2014: Gome becomes FFV CEO.
April 2015: Taliadoros becomes FFV president, Karp elected as board director.
March 2016: Carè, Steel and Jakupi elected to the board.
June 2016: De Zilva’s ban period expires.
June 2016: Peter Gome resigns as FFV CEO, replaced by interim CEO Cathy Acocks.
October 2016: Three board members (Karp, Lordanic, Rose) and interim CEO (Acocks) resign. Herald Sun links resignations to the De Zilva case.
October 2016: FFV board statement deems De Zlva’s ban “null and void” and apologises to him.
November 2016: Maxwell Gratton becomes FFV CEO.
December 2016: George Angelopoulos appointed to newly created position of general manager of football development.
March 2017: FFV board statement clarifies that De Zilva’s ban was not overturned, rather the board “reached a settlement that did not interfere with the tribunal’s decision”.
March 2017: The Australian reports seven sports lawyers withdraw their services from the tribunal. De Zilva deems second statement “inconsistent” with the earlier “formal apology” he received.
March 2017: Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) established.
April 2017: Herald Sun reports departure of 30 tribunal members.
April 2017: The Australian reports human relations manager Teresa Kyprianou departs FFV, “accuses Mr Taliadoros of freezing her out of staff appointments in which qualified, well-performing managers were retrenched and replaced by his hand-picked supporters” to FWC.
April 2017: The Australian newspaper claims Victorian government withdraws $15 million funding for State Football Centre.