Maribyrnong Council’s rejection of Melbourne Victory’s proposal to build a football academy in Footscray Park could descend into an expensive legal wrangle amid claims parties had signed a binding commitment to the project.

The football club’s dream to build an $18 million soccer academy in Footscray Park appeared dashed last Tuesday night when a 5-2 majority of councillors voted to reject the controversial project.

Melbourne Victory released a statement calling the decision “both disappointing and surprising”, claiming the council has “contractually committed” to deliver the earmarked Footscray Park site.

“Melbourne Victory is considering all of its options in light of Council’s decision,” the statement said.

Maribyrnong mayor Sarah Carter said the agreement signed four years ago was not a contract, but a memorandum of understanding subject to community consultation.

However a club spokesman told Star Weekly the council and club signed a separate agreement last year with the state government, which has promised $10 million to the academy.

“Council entered into an agreement with Melbourne Victory and the state government, beyond an MoU, and made a commitment to the site which was signed in mid-2018,” he said.

Asked about the 2018 agreement, Maribyrnong Council director of corporate services Celia Haddock said the council is unable to provide comment on specific arrangements.

“However, we can reiterate that Council is not contractually bound to lease Footscray Park to Melbourne Victory,” she said.

“We are also pleased by the announcement by the Minister for Sport that the State Government’s investment of $10million will follow the project.”

Footscray MP Katie Hall said she has always said that community consultation was “very important”. 

“Throughout this process I met with all community members who requested a meeting and I passed on the views of both sides of the debate to Council representatives as is appropriate,” she said.

“The government will work with Melbourne Victory, any interested local council and other parties to help find an alternative location.”