Football Queensland Chairman Ben Richardson and its Chief Executive, Robert Cavallucci, have reportedly commenced defamation proceedings against whistleblower and former Football Federation Australia executive Bonita Mersiades over an article she published in January this year.
The pair are seeking $800,000 in damages over the article, published on Mersiades’ Football Today website, which reported that Richardson was last year paid $44,000 for two month's work by Football Queensland, via his recruitment company, to conduct what it said in a media statement was "a rigorous competitive recruitment process" to find a new Chief Executive.
In November last year, Cavallucci, who until then was a board member of Football Queensland, was appointed to the role.
The payment to Richardson was detailed in Football Queensland's financial statement for last year, which noted "Payments of $40,000 (plus GST) was made to a company associated with Mr Ben Richardson for services rendered over a two-month period."
Mersiades's article claimed the Chief Executive’s salary package for Cavallucci was $320,000, which was $150,000 more than was paid to his predecessor, Richard Griffiths.
Richardson and Cavallucci demanded Mersiades (pictured) take down the story, which she refused to do.
Despite much of this information being in the public domain, in June, both men began defamation proceedings against Mersiades in the District Court of Queensland, claiming the article was false and defamatory.
Each man is seeking $400,000 in damages.
Mersiades is defending the action and has filed a defence arguing that the wording in the article was factual, presenting honestly held opinions and in the public's interest.
In a statement on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay her legal fees, Mersiades wrote "the article in question set out a series of sequential facts, based on evidence in my possession. It drew no conclusion and made no allegations of wrongdoing against either man."
Mersiades has received a statement of support from a group of former Socceroos known as The Golden Generation, which includes John Aloisi, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore and Mark Viduka.
As reported by the ABC, the Golden Generation put out a statement earlier this month saying: "We urge the Board of Football Queensland to drop this spurious defamation action against Bonita or be forever condemned for failing to put football first.”
A former Head of Corporate and Public Affairs with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and a member of the Senior Management Team for the Australian 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, Mersiades was sacked by FFA in 2010, 10 months before the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar.
Subsequently she has campaigned for transparency and against corruption in international and Australian football, publishing Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way, an 'insider' account of Australia's FIFA World Cup bid and politics within world football governing body FIFA.
She is also President of Women in Football Australia Inc.
A similar article was also published by Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail against whom Richardson and Cavallucci are not taking action.
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