Serious and unanswered questions remain about how the spurious and illegitimate defamation case against activist, writer and whistleblower, Bonita Mersiades, is being funded, despite questions being raised at the highest levels of the sport in Australia.
Football Queensland (FQ) bosses Ben Richardson and Robert Cavallucci are seeking to destroy Mersiades by claiming $800,000 in damages (plus interest) with a bogus lawsuit, alleging defamation for a story that is nothing more than a factually correct report. You can read about the case here:
- How an out of touch federation is trying to destroy Australian sporting hero and whistleblower, Bonita Mersiades
- The curious case of Benjamin Richardson
- The Ben Richardson Case: Queensland Spin Cycle
- The Ben Richardson Case. Mysterious Hack Attacks from Queensland.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Richardson: The recruitment consultant and the dodgy CV
There are many questions about the error strewn legal documents submitted to the Queensland Court by the pair’s lawyer Ashley Tiplady (Mills Oakley) who even managed in one filing to get the name of the website in which this so-called defamation took place wrong, but one fundamental question will not go away:
Who is funding this ridiculous case?
We have asked both Ben Richardson and Ashley Tiplady previously, but neither has bothered to answer our emails.
Our friends across the Australian football community have been telling us how Richardson has been desperately calling around, telling anyone who will listen that this is a ‘slam dunk case’. His rhetoric nevertheless seems to have changed recently (perhaps after we’ve pointed out a few inconvenient truths) and he apparently now speaks of a ‘huge legal line of credit’.
Where does such a thing come from?
The implication is that it was being funded by an insurance policy. But any lawyer on earth will tell you that an insurer will never pay a plaintiff’s costs in a defamation case.
Just to be sure we obtained a copy of Football Queensland’s insurance policy, which is underwritten by Gow Gates and SLE.
And it confirmed that Richardson and Cavallucci’s aggressive action does not fall under its terms:
It’s unlikely to be Ben Richardson, as he (or at least his wife) has been unable to pay his business taxes and in a recent insolvency. The administrator was told then:
Maybe the independently wealthy Robert Cavallucci is funding the case?
But he won’t tell us either.
But surely it wouldn’t be Football Queensland – which sits on $2.4million of cash reserves – that is the source of this ‘legal line of credit’.
Not only would this be an obscene misuse of football’s funds (on top of the $500 per hour fees seemingly already paid to crisis managers, Rowland) but it would be in direct breach of Football Queensland’s statutes.
In late August we contacted a Football Queensland board member and spoke to that person at length about a number of concerns we had about the overall running of the organisation, ranging from sexual misconduct to the possible misuse of funds relating to this legal case. While we have heard back about some other matters, the board member has been unable to offer clarity on whether Football Queensland funds are being used to fund this legal case.
Legal experts have told us that to bring a defamation case this far would cost between $50-70,000.
But the malaise goes much deeper.
The following people – among others, and among other institutions – have been contacted with concerns about possible financial mismanagement in Football Queensland as well as evidence that Ben Richardson embellished his credentials ahead of a presidential election.
- Chris Nikou – President, Football Federation Australia (FFA)
- James Johnson – CEO, FFA
- Greg Griffin – chair of FFA Ethics Committee
- Tim Holden – FFA General Counsel
- Kimon Taliadoros – President Football Victoria
- David Sharpe – CEO Sport Integrity Australia
- Richard Colbeck – Federal Minister for Sport
Not a single one of them has deigned to address these concerns.
Does nobody in Australian football care about how funds generated from grassroot participants are potentially being misused?
Is there no interest in good governance in Australian football? Or is it just a sick culture in which its leaders can do as they please?
We know FIFA – who earlier this year ordered an investigation into claims of wrongdoing at Football Queensland (which sources say was a whitewash) – are taking particular interest in this case.
The question is, will they compel FFA to act again in a region that has aspirations to host 2023 Women’s World Cup games and the 2032 Olympics? Or will they prove just as supine as the game’s rulers down under?
Despite the absurdity of the charges she faces, Bonita needs support!
She needs support, not only financially via the donation website, but morally too.
The Australian football community and FFA – despite lots of talk behind the scenes – has, with a few honourable exceptions, been totally spineless and complicit in this horrible case.
We have demonstrated numerous counts of wrongdoing in relation to Football Queensland and will continue to do so.
They have not been investigated.
Just two months ago Ben Richardson was re-elected president on the back of a CV that was riddled with exaggerations, distortions and embellishments.
The Australian media and so-called Australian ethics in sport institutions have so far embarrassed themselves in their collective failure to get to grips with this scandal. We are in possession of numerous whistleblower accounts and documents and know that it is a crisis that will only deepen.
Watch this space.