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Belconnen United withdraw from Canberra United Academy boycott

Capital Football chairman Mark O’Neill says the board will consider the NPL clubs demands at their meeting on February 22. Photo: Graham TidyBelconnen United backs the other Canberra National Premier League clubs’ stance, but will not join them in their boycott of playing Canberra United Academy teams because they don’t think it’s fair to penalise the players.

Capital Football chairman Mark O’Neill released a statement in response to the clubs’ claims he had reneged on promises made at a meeting last year, but Capital Football turned down Fairfax Media’s requests to speak to O’Neill.

The clubs felt agreements had been reached in a meeting with O’Neill on December 14.

Firstly the CU Academy wouldn’t be launched, only for it to be launched later the same day.

Secondly the NPL clubs would become members of Capital Football, which gives them a vote in determining the make-up of the board.

In his statement, O’Neill said claims he committed to the clubs becoming members were “incorrect”, while he also claimed the academies hadn’t been launched yet.

He said the board would consider the issues at their next meeting on February 22.

Belconnen president Tony Barr said his predecessor, Jaime Garrido, had included them in the boycott, but the board had decided to reverse that decision at a meeting on Monday night.

Barr said they backed the clubs’ concerns over the two sticking points, but they felt a different approach was needed to resolve them.

Tuggeranong United boycotted pre-season games against the academy on Sunday and the boycott was expected to continue until the clubs get a satisfactory response from Capital Football – even at the cost of premiership points.

While Belconnen don’t have any friendlies against CU Academy, they will meet them in the first round of the season proper.

“As a club we had a discussion … and the overwhelming feeling was that they wanted to play the Canberra United teams,” Barr said.

“Why not play what should be the best teams in your age group to test yourself?

“We’re still in line with trying to work with the other clubs to make sure Capital Football runs a great competition for all of us and does it for all the clubs involved, but making a threat of not playing the other teams is just taking away from our own kids and taking away from those kids that are trying to improve their football.”

​Representatives from the seven NPL clubs that met with O’Neill late last year came away thinking they’d struck a deal in regards to Capital Football’s structure and the CU Academy.

But O’Neill denied he even had the power to make an agreement to make the clubs members.

“Any suggestion that the Capital Football board or any director of Capital Football board can unilaterally commit to changing the governance structure of Capital Football, or did so commit, is incorrect,” his statement said.

In regards to the academy launch, O’Neill said that hadn’t occurred yet. Fairfax Media reported the launch of the CU Academy in mid December.

“That meeting constituted an information meeting of the players, and their parents, selected to participate in Capital Football high performance programs,” his statement said.

“The meeting explained the structure of the program and sought to clarify various administrative matters …  the Canberra United Academy has not yet been publicly launched.”

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