football today

The Ben Richardson Case: Queensland Spin Cycle

This is part 3 of our series on alarming problems of Good Governance in Australian football federations, on the suppression of free journalism, threats to whistleblowers and, in particular, on the curious case of Benjamin Richardson, president of Football Queensland (FQ).

According to whistleblower testimony Football Queensland hired an expensive crisis management consultancy following publication of articles in the Brisbane Courier-Mail (‘Let’s tackle junior sport’s absurd fees’/paywall) and Football Today (‘Cost of paying increases in Queensland’) about its chairman Ben Richardson paying himself $44,000.

The regional football association may have paid as much as $15,000 for these ‘crisis management’ services to Rowland, which was once Australia’s largest independent PR agency and is now a part of the Fleishmanhillard network. FQ is currently engaged in an expensive and spurious defamation case against Australian whistleblower and writer, Bonita Mersiades over one of the articles.

Benjamin Richardson and Robert Cavallucci, CEO of Football Queensland, instigated by their lawyer Ashley Tiplady (Mills Oakley), want to destroy Mersiades for her factually correct report. They are chasing a grand total of $800,000 reparations from Mersiades –  plus interest – in the Queensland courts.

Not only do they use football’s money for their dubious legal attempt to destroy Mersiades; they waste even more of FQ’s money – which belongs to mums and dads and their kids who pay their fees in good faith – for the services of an expensive PR and crisis management company.

We have written about this dubious case here, and we provided the most important documents that will, perhaps, lead to investigations of relevant authorities.

The curious case of Benjamin Richardson

Football Queensland, 2017 Annual Report, page 7

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.

How an out of touch federation is trying to destroy Australian sporting hero and whistleblower, Bonita Mersiades

Whistleblowers assume a special place in sporting culture. ‚These,‘ said Jens Sejer Anderson of Denmark’s Play The Game Institute in a 2017 speech, ‚are the unsung heroes who have shown the rest of us the true picture of the challenges around us. Without them, we would not know the reality on the ground and we would be fumbling in the dark.‘

Photo: Play the Game/Thomas Søndergaard

In our careers in journalism, Bonita Mersiades has been foremost among these brave voices. Sacked a decade ago from Australia’s 2022 World Cup for being ‚too honest‘, she cast a light on one of the most rotten sporting contests in history and her brave stance directly contributed to the US Department of Justice taking long-awaited action against FIFA. Her reputation as a whistleblower, author and activist globally is peerless. Her reputation amongst leading investigative journalists, criminal investigators, law enforcement agencies and academics working on sport corruption all over the world cannot be better.

Nevertheless, Bonita’s contribution to football has always transcended this narrow description as a whistleblower. First she was an activist in an early-century Australian game still struggling to broaden itself away from the national and ethnic rivalries of the immigrants who built the game to the ‚lucky country‘. Next she was a brilliant and formidable executive at FFA as the country staked its place in Asian football. Since the disastrous World Cup bid she has been the author of a formidable expose on FIFA’s rottenness, publisher of a small press, and editor of an excellent news website.

Her book ‚Whatever It Takes – the Inside Story of the FIFA Way‘ is brilliant, far beyond the Australian World Cup bid, peppered with numerous exclusive details – an absolute must-read. And, she donated all proceeds of the book to the Pararoos in their fundraising campaign to participate in international competition.

This is Bonita Mersiades.