We need to talk about Benjamin Richardson, the president of Football Queensland (FQ), who is seeking to destroy whistleblower and author Bonita Mersiades via a spurious defamation case.
Richardson and Robert Cavallucci, CEO of Football Queensland, complain of an alleged defamation that is in fact nothing more than a factually correct report by Bonita Mersiades.
Together with their lawyer Ashley Tiplady (Mills Oakley), who claims to have reported us to Queensland police for daring to ask questions (although we still await a crime reference number, despite our repeated requests for one, so that we may perform our civic duty and share information with them), the gentlemen are chasing a grand total of $800,000 reparations from Mersiades – plus interest – in the Queensland courts.
We explained the case last Friday (‚How an out of touch federation is trying to destroy Australian sporting hero and whistleblower, Bonita Mersiades‘), on the basis of documents, not on the basis of absurd medieval defamation documents, through which the lawyer Tiplady – whose business we will also take a closer look at – has let down his clients with poorly worded legal briefs.
Richardson and Cavallucci will fail. Tiplady too.
The money from FQ, which has been spent on legal advice and apparently also the services of an expensive PR and crisis management company – more on this to come! – does not help distract from their own mistakes or – more fundamentally – help football in the state of Queensland.
The publication of our article ‘How an out of touch federation is trying to destroy Australian sporting hero and whistleblower, Bonita Mersiades’ has caused a stir in Australia, far beyond the football community.
Numerous officials and informants have come forward and paint a disastrous picture of the practices under the umbrella of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and in particular in the regional association Football Queensland. The conditions are worrying.
Richardson and Cavallucci want to destroy Bonita Mersiades. Most of Australia’s leading officials stand by, including FFA President Chris Nikou. He refuses to answer questions. The behaviour of Nikou and others is disgraceful for a democratic community and for football associations that claim to follow the rules of good governance.
We will see how various ethics committees, such as Sport Integrity Australia (SIA), the Queensland sports government and the federal government in Canberra, assess the case.
As a small interim report of our research, we would like to present you with the most important documents relating to the Richardson case.
A Richardson case – not a Mersiades case, even if Bonita Mersiades still needs your and our support as she faces this absurd lawsuit.
It is a very, very strange case of Benjamin Richardson that raises suspicion of a number of ethics violations, perhaps more. We’ll come back to that.
For today, these facts and documents:
Benjamin Richardson, born 1979 in Nottingham, United Kingdom, describes himself as a ’successful entrepreneur with a track record in value creation and delivering change. Committed volunteer working to create a better world‘. He became president of Football Queensland in March 2019.
Robert Cavallucci joined the FQ Board.
FQ President Ben Richardson registered a company called BEN RICHARDSON CONSULTING PTY LTD with the ACN number 634 417 575 and the ABN 56 634 417 575 at 26 June.
BEN RICHARDSON CONSULTING PTY LTD is fully owned by GL MELBOURNE PTY LTD, ACN 131 321 741, another company owned by Ben Richardson.
This is what we found at the website of the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC):
Any phone number? Any website of BEN RICHARDSON CONSULTING PTY LTD?
The employment of Richard Griffiths, the former CEO of FQ, was terminated on 19 August 2019 according to the Sunshine Coast Daily (behind a paywall). According to one of our sources the decision to terminate the employment of the former CEO was communicated to him by Richardson and Cavallucci at the then PwC offices of Cavallucci.
We don’t know yet the exact date when the newly founded BEN RICHARDSON CONSULTING PTY LTD was hired by Football Queensland and its President Ben Richardson for the recruiting process for a new CEO of Football Queensland. A process that Ben Richardson later described as ‚a rigorous and competitive recruitment process, which attracted strong candidates from around the world‘.
On 9 October 2019, Ben Richardson wrote an email to FQ’s members/stakeholders to advise:
‚We are in the final recruitment stages of a new CEO following the recent departure of Richard Griffiths, and hope to announce a new CEO at the Football in Queensland Awards Night, 2 November. The response to the opportunity has been fantastic and we are delighted by the calibre of candidates interested in taking this lead role for football in Queensland at this very important and exciting time.‘
On 11 November, according to ASIC, Cavallucci left the FQ Board.
On 14 November, Richardson, the company owner, issued an invoice to Football Queensland with the president Richardson in the amount of $44,000 (GST included) for ‚HR/Recrutiment Consulting Services provided in September/October 2019‘.
This is the invoice:
And this is the email from Richardson, the company owner, to FQ staff advising them:
‚This is not for public discussion so please ensure this matter is not discussed with anyone outside of myself, Jackie (Knight) or the FQ Board.‘
Richardson, the company owner, asked staff of FQ, chaired by Richardson himself:
‚Can you kindly include in today’s pay run?‘
And so it happened. Invoice paid at the same day:
The payment appeared in FQ’s annual report 2019:
On 15 November 2019, Cavallucci issued a statement saying he had withdrawn from consideration for the Football Federation Australia CEO role, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
On 18 November 2019, Ben Richardson, the FQ president, announced the appointment of Robert Cavallucci, the former FQ Board member, after an alleged ‚rigorous and competitive recruitment process, which attracted strong candidates from around the world‘ conducted by Ben Richardson, the company owner.
It turned out that Cavallucci received a $320,000 pay packet was thought to be an 89% hike on what Griffiths was receiving. And also much higher than the salary mentioned in the job announcement a few weeks before:
Indeed these aren’t the only mysteries about Ben’s football and business career – there’s the company with a ‚$10m gross profit‘ we can find little trace of, and the lack of any football pedigree amongst other puzzles.
But we’ll leave these for another day.
Mind you, if any more of our readers can fill in the gaps – we’d be delighted to hear from you.
You may want to retweet a short version of ‚The curious case of Benjamin Richardson‘. Please:
Good morning, Australia @FootballQLD @FFA @ProtectingSport!— SPORT & POLITICS (@JensWeinreich) August 2, 2020
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