Soccer’s Legal Guru

Geelong Advertiser, Thursday 17 April 2008, p. 39.

Geelong lawyer and soccer writer John Didulica has just won a key post as Legal Counsel for the Football Federation of Australia. In that role he will have an influence on the way the game develops and is administered in Australia and internationally. ‘As a lawyer, the challenge of sport is very tricky. It is never purely a legal role, you must always be asking yourself, what is the sport trying to achieve? There is a balance between understanding and applying the law in an environment where passion and emotion are involved in the sport,’ he said.

A star with North Geelong and later a top class National League and Victorian Premier League player until a series of knee operations ended his career, Didulica completed his law degree at Deakin University. After completing his articles with local firm Coulter Roche he branched out on his own, while acting as manager to his brother, Joey Didulica now with AZ Alkmaar in Holland, and becoming the legal counsel and later chief executive of the Australian Professional Footballers Association. It was there that he gained an intimate knowledge of player contracts and the statutes and regulations which are the nuts and bolts of the professional game. He was appointed to its international tribunal by FIFA, the governing body of world football in 2005. As if that workload was not demanding enough he took over the soccer column of the Geelong Advertiser. This year he was recognised as the Geelong Soccer Personality for 2008 for his contributions to the game.

Having re-established his legal practice, Didulica Legal, in Geelong and married Olivia Baric, Didulica was unwilling to relocate full-time to Sydney where the FFA has its headquarters. So he has negotiated a contract that will see him spend 3 days at week in the harbour city at least until July.

He takes up his role at a particularly exciting time for the game in this country, with World Cup qualification already under way, links with Asia developing through the Asian Champions League and the Beijing Olympic Games, in which the Olyroos will take part, and the A-League becoming firmly established as a flagship competition. Then there is the commitment by the Federal Government to a bid to host the World Cup in 2018.

‘I know what I would like to achieve for the game. It is important that the game is run as a business, but that is the means to an end. The values which must shape the game are those of fair play and entertainment. I admire the egalitarianism of the AFL and the application of those values to the administration of our code will help make the FFA a better custodian of the game,’ he said. In his new role, John Didulica will have a significant influence on the growth of football in this country.

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