By Edd Paul – @Edd93Paul
Relegation play-offs are a common occurrence in football: relegated teams from a higher tier face off against promoted clubs from the league below.
Usually, as is the way with pretty much everything in football, the result is decided on the pitch. However, two clubs in Australia may now be battling it out in the courtroom for a place in the second division.
Western Australia side Joondalup United are being denied promotion to the National Premier League under threat of a lawsuit – from relegated Subiaco AFC, whose place they should be taking.
United were crowned State League champions in September, securing promotion to the NPL, just one step below the top-tier A-League.
However, relegated Subiaco – who finished rock-bottom of the NPL – are flexing their financial muscle and have threatened to sue the league’s governing body, Football West, over Joondalup’s adherence to their eligibility criteria.
And much to the dismay of Joondalup and the Australian football community, Football West have buckled under the threat of legal action and put a block on promotion and relegation until 2017 over the tiniest of legal technicalities.
The governing body have stated Joondalup’s choice of ground, the Percy Doyle Reserve, does not qualify as a ‘compliant venue’ in line with their regulations.
They claim the “in-principle” agreement Joondalup have with fellow tenants Sorrento FC, provided and approved by the City of Joondalup Council, is not substantial enough for the ground to be acknowledged as a compliant venue, a legality Subiaco are willing to sue over.
Yes, you read that right: the worst club in the league are trying to lawyer their way out of relegation – and it’s working.
To make matters worse, Football West and other relevant third parties had already confirmed Joondalup had passed all the relevant criteria to join the league shortly after they were crowned as champions.
Having received the all-clear, Joondalup got their house in order for the 2017 season, a campaign they believed they would be playing in a higher tier.
The club spent thousands on preparing for the step-up, including putting their coaches through Football West’s C Licence course and a significant influx of players into their academy.
But now, all of United’s work off and on the pitch could go to waste: but luckily, they’re not going down without a fight.
A petition has been launched with over 1,800 signatures so far, just a few hundred short of the required 2,500 mark, and the club have received offers of legal assistance and support from the wider footballing community.
In any case, the fact Joondalup can’t get promoted because of a tiny legality, despite it being a widely known fact many clubs already in the NPL don’t match all the necessary criteria, is laughable.
So go ahead and sign the petition; football should be decided on the pitch, not in the courtroom.
UPDATE – Monday 14th November, 16.40pm
Well, well, well. Subiaco AFC player Mark Davis has laid into his club and Football West on Facebook, expressing his disgust at his side’s actions and calling for their relegation to be upheld:
The plot thickens…