Blue steel: Charlestown vow to continue fight to regain Azzurri name

Charlestown City Blues have welcomed a call from Football Federation Australia to review its controversial policy banning ethnic club names and logos but say their fight will not end until Azzurri returns to their title.

In what seems at least a moral victory for Charlestown, FFA announced on Wednesday it was to review its 2014 National Club Identity Policy (NCIP), which has stood in the way of the Blues regaining Azzurri to their name.

It came after Charlestown took a racial discrimination case against FFA and Northern NSW Football to the Australian Human Rights Commission last month.

The soccer federations refused to allow the change at conciliation and Charlestown, with 107 signatories from the Italian community, vowed to take their fight to the Supreme Court.

FFA has since said it will review the NCIP, which prohibits clubs from displaying ethnic, national, political, racial or religious identifiers, by early next year, but Charlestown supporter Anthony Di Nardo said the club  may continue their fight regardless. 

They held a strategic planning meeting, coincidentally, on Wednesday night.

“We’re optimistic,” Di Nardo said of the FFA announcement. “We welcome the review Football Federation Australia has proposed. It’s a step in the right direction given the community support and feedback nationally, not just on a local level.

“But it doesn’t guarantee anything and we will be discussing with our legal representative and see where we go from here.

“The only relief I have, the only time we will stop any further action is when we have our name back.”

Asked if they would wait for the review’s outcome before proceeding with a legal challenge, Di Nardo said “that has to be determined”. He added they “absolutely” may press on with their case and they remained “undoubtedly” confident of winning.

FFA said in its statement that it believed the legal challenge would be unlikely to succeed.

“Given the treatment Azzurri has had here, we feel we have been discriminated against as part of the Italian community,” Di Nardo said.

The club hope to change their light blue and white logo of Charlestown City Blues FC to the Italian flag colours and the name Charlestown Azzurri FC (shown above).

The Blues are a merged entity of Azzurri FC and Charlestown United. Azzurri were cut from the NNSWF top division at the end of 2008 and changed their name under pressure.

Charlestown believe they have been discriminated against under the NCIP, which allows fellow NNSW NPL clubs Hamilton Olympic and Broadmeadow Magic to retain links to their ethnic foundations.

“There’s been a lot of commentary over the last 10 days,” Di Nardo said. “A lot of media has got behind us and we must give special thanks to the other NPL clubs as well. We’ve had some really good responses from Hamilton Olympic, Broadmeadow Magic, Edgeworth – they have been very supportive.”

Charlestown issued a statement on Thursday saying they “would prefer to see an amicable resolution to the racial discrimination complaint”.

“Club supporters remain steadfast and determined to see the return of their former name Azzurri FC or updated to Charlestown Azzurri FC,” it read. “The club would like to thank both FFA, for this show of good will, and the AAFC (Australian Association of Football Clubs) for the important role it played in bringing about this review. 

“Charlestown City Blues FC supports FFA's stated goal of making football inclusive and accessible to all Australians. The migrant groups who have made Australian football the success it is today, continue to welcome people of all backgrounds while cherishing and sharing their own unique cultures.

“Contributing to the review will give the club an opportunity to highlight the NCIP's obvious shortcomings. 

“The name Azzurri (Italian for the colour blue) is extremely important to the Italian-Australian community.”

“The club was formed in 1963 by young Italian migrants. It began with the name Hamilton Azzurri SFC, changed to Highfields Azzurri FC when a club house was secured in the Newcastle suburb of Highfields, then more recently shortened its name to simply Azzurri FC. The sense of community afforded the Italian-Australian community through their football club continues to be extremely important.”