We have for you today FNSW President Jim Forrest's rebuttal of what's been going on...
"Dear member of FNSW,
You would expect that any recommendation to remove a director from office would be clearly substantiated. Wrong, because recommendations in the Addendum to the Commission of Enquiry (CoE) provide no details. Nor is support to be found in the main part of the report.
You would expect provision for an appeal against any recommendations, or at least a meeting between the Boards of FNSW and FFA. Wrong again. It would seem that FFA were fully apprised as to the contents of the CoE report prior to receiving it, as instead of any meeting, with FNSW, as required by the National Charter, FFA went straight for the baseball bats. FFA (Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley in separate phone calls) required me to resign now, but would allow me to make a “statement” in “a month or so”. Hang him first, ask why later.
You would expect FFA would not first suspend the Commission of Enquiry on legal grounds in mid-October 2010, then, without further explanation, warmly embrace the report in early December. Wrong yet again. Why?
1. In reverse order, first FFA’s intervention into the CoE and subsequent affairs of FNSW.
In September 2010, Howard Bradley and Michael Webber met with Frank. Lowy, Ben Buckley and FFA lawyers asking that FFA take over the Commission of Enquiry owing to complaints about the independence of the CoE Commissioners and to ensure procedural fairness for all parties concerned. Mr. Lowy made his legal team available to look into this.
On 22 October 2010 FFA requested a report on the establishment and conduct of the CoE. Meantime, FFA ordered that the CoE suspend all of its activities. FNSW sent a copy of FFA’s letter to the chair of the CoE, Mr Ron Hoenig. Mr Hoenig independently responded by email of 25 October, copy to FFA, that:
… should this be an attempt by the FFA to interfere with the independent findings of the Commission … then he [Hoenig] will have no hesitation of making public his opinion, and publicly providing his state and federal colleagues of his opinion …
I understand that Frank Lowy telephoned Ron Hoenig from Zurich to discuss the CoE. He and Mr Hoenig may further have communicated on Mr Lowy’s return and prior to the report being finalised on 8 December 2010. In spite of asking, FNSW received no further correspondence on this matter. FNSW received a copy of the Commission of Enquiry Report late on Wednesday 8 December.
On Thursday 9 December 2010 FNSW received a phone call from FFA at approximately 2.30 pm that the FFA Board was considering an unauthorised copy of the CoE report provided to them by Mr Hoenig the previous evening. To my knowledge the other two Commissioners were unaware of this referral. At 5.30 pm or so FNSW received a letter asking FNSW to cancel their AGM because of the report and its implications.
FNSW’s General Manager was authorised to email members that:
.... pursuant to the very late release of the Commission of Enquiry Report and a request from the FFA ... that the Board of Football NSW agrees to cancel the Annual General Meeting set for 11 December, 2010. And to reschedule the Annual General Meeting to a date not later than 31 March 2011, as required by the Corporations Act 2010 [and that] We agree ... that it is in the interests of the members of Football NSW and Football more generally that the report can be more fully considered.
Prior to the FNSW Board meeting on 15 December, FFA wrote instructing that the whole FNSW board, apart from the vice-president, should resign to allow FFA to step in and appoint an Interim Board of its own choosing to ‘sort out’ FNSW. All on the basis of a Commission of Enquiry report that FFA had suspended and not reinstated.
What is any reasonable person to make of all this? Except, perhaps, that a deal had been done as suggested in a report in the Sydney Morning Herald by Michael Cockerill shortly after the CoE was a week later released to FNSW Members, this time unauthorised by either FNSW or FFA.
On the 12 January 2011 a requisition was received for an EGM with four motions to reinstate the AGM with elections for no later than 31 March 2011; set up reviews into Riverstone and insurances; external review on FNSW and its board structure and governance and any other appointments to the board to be done through an EGM for members to vote on.
On 19 January 2011 ‘by order of the FFA Board’, FFA issued a direction to the Members of FNSW that I be removed as a director of Football NSW, that an interim board be set up, and further that the motions in the requisition for an EGM to allow the Members of FNSW to chart a way forward be set aside. All under threat of disaffiliation of FNSW from FFA for any failure to comply with these directions from FFA. A requisition for an EGM and motions by several Members complying with this FFA direction was subsequently received.
On the 25 Janury 2011 the Board of FNSW moved to incorporate both sets of resolutions into one EGM to be held on 19 February 2011. Finally, on 27 January 2011 a meeting called by Sydney Branch and Tom Doumanis was held to discuss the FFA directives. A delegation comprising Tom Doumanis, Greg O’Rourke, Rob Laws and Ross Gardner was appointed to seek a meeting with Mr Lowy to to ask that FFA reconsider proceeding with the first four resolutions to form the EGM (the FFA directives of 19 January) in favour of an agreement which would see the entire present board being replaced by a board suitable to both the members and FFA
I apologise for the rather long lead in, but the role of FFA in this whole process, as opposed to the democratic right of the Members of Football NSW to chart their own way forward, in consultation with FFA sure, but not at FFA’s dictation under threat of disaffiliation, is important. It is to me.
Now to the substance of the ‘accusations’ against me:
1. The findings of the Addendum to the report.
FNSW’s lawyers, Landers & Rogers, advised us that any recommendations in the Addendum would be valid if they logically flowed out of the main body of the report. Significantly, however, there is a substantial mis-match between what is recommended in the Addendum and what is reported in the main body of the report about me.
From the Addendum, the recommendations (item #12) mention three areas of ‘concern’:
(a) Failure to properly apply the rules and law of meeting procedure. Turn to the main body of the report, and it only mentions one aspect of minute taking, namely the recording of who moved/seconded motions in the published version of the minutes. Even though the CoE knew that the handwritten minute book recorded who moved/seconded motions in detail.
(b) Improperly applying the provisions of FNSW by-laws. What by-laws? None is mentioned anywhere. Certainly there is no expansion of this point in the main body of the report. Possibly (I have to guess here!) it might have applied to the setting up of a state appeal committee on a boundary dispute. If so, during the period concerned (2006-2007) there were two appeal structures, one each for Association and state league appeals. This is evident in Board minutes of the time. The latter had to be picked from a panel, and were commonly chaired by a lawyer. The former were selected by senior management from among senior and longer-serving Association people. The appeal n question was chaired by Linda Ward (then president of MWFA) and joined by Ian Westray (president Blacktown Assn) and Darryl Verity (past-president Granville Assn). Does anybody suggest that any of these people were easily led contrary to how they saw things? Surely not.
(c) Applying an executive authority. This may (again, I have to guess) relate to the above appeal, but the decision lay with the CEO and he only consulted me on occasion as to a range of people from among whom some might be approached. Is the president of any of our football bodies so useless that he cannot be consulted as to a range of the best people from among whom some may be selected by the CEO? If there are any other areas of such heinous anti-corporate conduct, none is mentioned. Was this done deliberately so I could not defend myself properly and hope you wouldn’t notice?
2. Involvement of FFA in FNSW affairs.
This is an area not mentioned in the CoE report but which has intruded into FNSW’s situation, and apparently mine as well, less than positively. It seems that FFA chair Frank Lowy is mad at Jim Forrest personally, notwithstanding that I have never criticised FFA or raised issues other than at the request of our Board or the Members, which are:
(a) The W-League.
FFA received $2m a year from the federal government for four years to help set this up, but.the A-League clubs could not afford the W-League also. FFA asked each state for assistance. FNSW agreed to this for two years, at the end of which FFA promised a business plan for a sustainable future of the W-League. This was not forthcoming and the FNSW board agreed that we could no longer afford to provide financial support. FFA were not happy.
We expressed concern about long delays in the finalisation of this consultancy report, which in the end focused mainly on pathways, with much less on the full attention needed to a national and state orientated business plan, especially relative to the role of the Vikings Group within Futsal.
(c) Small Sided Football.
When mini-soccer (Rooball) was introduced, all Associations came on board from the start. When FFA mandated the introduction of SSF several years ago, some Associations had already acted; others took up the challenge with enthusiasm; others were less enthusiastic. We are a very large body, more than half of Australia’s players. We had agreed on a year-by-year introduction and advancement of SSF, to which FFA agreed. But apparently our slow compliance in some areas irks FFA. So blame JF.
(d) Summer (Premier League) football.
This came up more than a year ago. We noted the FFA constitution which gives to each state the authority to set up, administer and maintain competitions. We asked for as well-argued proposal from the PL standing committee, then evidence of consultation with the other divisional standing committees, especially Super League (there was some, but late on), after which the board made a decision, knowing we still then had to obtain FFA ‘sanction’ for the competition. Mistake! Frank Lowy blamed me personally. I assure you, all board decisions are made by board members as a whole, after due consideration. No one board member can fool all of the board members all of the time (as apparently the CoE somewhere concludes I have been doing for four years now! What nonsense.
(e) The National Charter.
This was proposed by FFA a year or so ago to bring FFA and the states into a shared statement as to how we would all work together. On Board instructions, I advised FFA that FNSW wanted to see a statement about consultation, in both directions among the national and state bodies explicitly mentioned in the Charter. Rather than the original emphasis on FFA direction/consultation down to the states. After quite a few months of discussion, FFA acceded to our request. I got blamed for that too. Tough.
All the above shows a pattern of disregard by FFA of the FIFA rules and FFA Charter and By Laws and is inconsistent with the principles of Fair Play and professional governance. In FFA’s treatment of those adversely named in the CoE report and of Football NSW prior to issuing directives and instructions.
The Addendum to the CoE report is a different document from the main body of the report. Few if any (and not the most important) of the accusations against me are substantiated in the main body of the report, let along properly documented.
FFA’s actions are inconsistent. First they instructed FNSW to suspend the Commission, and subsequently, without further notification, seem to have reversed their decision. All the circumstantial evidence, and the hard evidence of FFA emails, suggests that deals may have been done: to get rid of Forrest and seize the opportunity to take over FNSW with an interim board to sort them out, on the basis of a tainted CoE report as the ideal vehicle to make this all happen.
If you want to get rid of me prior to the AGM elections and agree to the directives from FFA on the basis of a report of doubtful validity and/or very doubtful argument, you can. I only ask that you address the FFA motion and CoE recommendation to remove me with caution and on legal grounds. It you want to get rid of me for political reasons, the right way for that is to ignore FFA instructions and elect somebody else at the postponed AGM.
Many thanks for your consideration.