Charlestown City Blues were excited and proud after playing a key role in the removal of Football Federation Australia's controversial National Club Identity Policy (NCIP).
The champagne, though, is on ice until the Northern NSW NPL club have the name Azzurri and the Italian colours officially back in their title and emblem.
FFA announced last Friday the NCIP, which bans ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations in club names, logos or emblems, would be replaced following a review.
The decision to review the policy was announced last September, just days after Charlestown vowed to take their racial discrimination complaint to the Supreme Court following a conciliation meeting with FFA and Northern NSW Football at the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) which failed to secure a resolution.
The Blues, a merged entity of Azzurri FC and Charlestown United, want to reconnect with their Italian heritage. Azzurri FC, formerly Highfields Azzurri, were cut in a revamp of the NNSWF top division at the end of 2008 and changed their name under pressure. The Blues returned in 2014.
Charlestown believe they were discriminated against under the NCIP, which allowed fellow NNSW NPL clubs Hamilton Olympic and Broadmeadow Magic to retain links to their ethnic foundations.
Charlestown club secretary Roger Steel lodged a racial discrimination complaint, signed by 107 people, in a bid to have Azzurri, which is Italian for blue, reinstated. Long-time club supporters Anthony Di Nardo and Roby Valentinis were also key players in the campaign.
Steel said the club were thrilled with FFA's decision to replace the NCIP but they were awaiting confirmation on what the new Diversity and Inclusion Policy will entail.
"You wouldn't believe the number of hours that went into it, so it is satisfying, but we're not there yet and we're not celebrating until we get the definite nod from Northern, but we're very, very hopeful," Steel said.
He said there was great pride in the club and among supporters following the FFA announcement.
"There's been other clubs who've made attempts over the years, so we don't want to downplay what they've done," he said.
"I think Melbourne Knights had an effort, and perhaps some others, but the fact we've pushed this and it appears it has happened following that, we are quite proud of that, because it doesn't just benefit us, it benefits lots of other clubs.
"We're definitely pleased that effort has been more broadly reaching."
Steel said the club hoped to return the Azzurri name and Italian colours next season, given playing strips for 2019 had already been made.
"If it was next season, we would be delighted," he said.
"Roby, Anthony, Tony Martinelli, who is one of our founding fathers, they are quite excited at the prospect. They are very hopeful and it means a lot to them. A lot of work has gone into it, but all of it will be worthwhile if we get the name back.
"I think it's going to attract more people from the Italian community back, because I think a lot of people felt pretty dejected once that identity was taken away.
"I think it will get more people back watching and also more sponsors back. There are a lot of people from an Italian background in the business community and I know some have said to the people doing our sponsorship drive that they lost interest once the name went, so I'm hoping it will ease the financial burden on the club and increase our support."
"There's a lot of people who have been around through all those years and they remember all of those things, so there would certainly be some pride in the club."
Steel said he had written to FFA boss David Gallop and NNSWF chief David Eland "thanking them for their involvement in getting this done and asking them what the next steps are".
"The difficulty is that we've already had all our clothing produced with the logos, and while we could possibly get patches pressed on top of our uniform, which we might do for our first-grade playing strip, I don't know if we'd go that far with all of our supporter gear," he said.
"I think we'll have to accept this takes time and provided we've got permission to do it next season, we'll work towards that.
"If they approve that, it will be Charlestown Azzurri with Italian colours.
"The other alternative is to go to back to Highfields Azzurri but we think Charlestown Azzurri would be good.
"We've come to be known as Charlestown now."
The full FFA statement below;
Following extensive review, Football Federation Australia today announced the existing National Club Identity Policy will be replaced.
FFA Chief Executive Officer David Gallop said the review, which included consultation with clubs, Member Federations, the PFA, the Association of Australian Football Clubs and over 700 submissions received from the wider football community, found support for change.
“Over the past three months, we have spoken to a cross section of the football community and it was clear that the majority of our stakeholders felt it was important we acknowledged the contribution many communities across Australia have made to their clubs, whilst still promoting inclusion and diversity,” he said.
FFA Chairman Chris Nikou said the Board of Directors, at its recent meeting made the in-principle decision to replace the existing NCIP with a new Diversity and Inclusion Policy
The new policy will be built on some core principles and strike a balance between a number of elements including:
The importance of football embracing the wider community and of clubs, as the lifeblood and shopfront of the game, being accessible, embracing and truly representative of their geographical regions
Recognition of the heritage of clubs and the significant contribution of particular communities within the broader community to the development of individual clubs and the game as a whole
The state of maturity of the game and its clubs and the importance of clubs reflecting the face of modern Australia
The imperative for football as a game and its clubs more specifically to meet community standards and expectations, commit to and enact values based on tolerance, openness, diversity and inclusion
The need for appropriate measures to ensure commitment by all parties to upholding these shared standards and values.
Mr Nikou said before finalising the changes, FFA would undertake further consultation with key experts in the fields of diversity and inclusion.
“It is important the new policy considers where and how to strike the appropriate balance between promoting openness, inclusivity and diversity on the one hand whilst providing Clubs the opportunity to recognise their history and the communities that have contributed to their development on the other,” he said.
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