Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has called on Football Federation Australia (FFA) to overhaul its disciplinary procedures after Young Socceroo Sebastian Ryall had criminal charges against him dropped.
PFA Chief Executive Brendan Schwab said that FFA had overreached its mandate by taking disciplinary action against Ryall on the sole basis that he had been charged with a criminal offence.  As a result, Ryall was suspended from playing for the Young Socceroos at the 2009 FIFA World Youth Cup, a vital stepping stone in an elite player’s development, and served a lengthy suspension with his A-League club Sydney FC.  The PFA represented Ryall at the disciplinary hearing.

“The PFA stood by Sebastian throughout this matter because we believe in his character as an outstanding young man and the presumption of innocence,” Schwab said.  “Unfortunately, FFA took the view that its commercial interests outweighed this fundamental principle of Australian civil society.

“Despite being innocent, Sebastian has endured both a heavy penalty and a huge amount of adverse publicity.  Clearly, any disciplinary action based solely on a criminal charge is premature until the processes of the criminal law have been exhausted.”

Schwab says FFA needs to give much greater consideration to the impact its disciplinary processes can have on a player’s reputation and welfare and how the resultant publicity may impact on the player’s right to a fair trial.

“The media shows great interest in the off-field conduct of professional footballers.  However, there is a difference between what the public may be interested in, and what is in the public interest.

“We strongly feel that the public interest is served by FFA respecting the presumption of innocence and using cases like this to educate the community about the role the presumption plays in the criminal justice system in Australia.

“That Sebastian was able to overcome the pressures of these proceedings and play a key role in Sydney FC’s A-League Championship is a credit to him, his family and his legal and support team.  He is also a credit to his fellow professional footballers, his club and the game,” Schwab added.