Official Scrabble body forced to eat its words in squabble with Australian

The Victoria state magistrates' court ruled that the local chapter of the Australian Scrabble Players' Association must overturn a years-old ruling that retired teacher Mohammed A Hegazi had behaved in a manner "unbecoming" to the popular board game.
The Victoria state magistrates' court ruled that the local chapter of the Australian Scrabble Players' Association must overturn a years-old ruling that retired teacher Mohammed A Hegazi had behaved in a manner "unbecoming" to the popular board game. PHOTO: TNP FILE  

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - A long-running war of words between an Australian and the official Scrabble body has finally been declared a draw by a state court.

The Victoria state magistrates' court ruled that the local chapter of the Australian Scrabble Players' Association must overturn a years-old ruling that retired teacher Mohammed A Hegazi had behaved in a manner "unbecoming" to the popular board game.

But Mr Hegazi failed to persuade the court to declare he had never cheated while playing the 77-year-old game.

Mr Hegazi's lawyer, Mr Robert Frajsman, said his client was also ordered to pay costs of A$3,000 (S$3,245).

"Who would have thought that Scrabble would be a blood sport?" Mr Frajsman told Reuters.

Mr Hegazi had agreed in 2008 to a 12-month suspension from the association after it found him guilty of bullying competitors, cheating and unprofessional conduct. Details of the cheating accusation were not immediately available.

But despite returning to competition once the ban was up, Mr Hegazi maintained he never cheated and asked the association to overturn its finding.

In mediation late last year, the association agreed to revoke its finding, but Mr Hegazi took the matter to the state court, asking for the body to be ordered to say he never cheated.

Despite failing to have the cheating clause added to the court order, Mr Hegazi felt "justified that he didn't lie down and cop it (and) stood up for what he firmly believed in", Mr Frajsman added.

Ms Marjorie Miller, secretary of the association's Victorian branch at the time when Mr Hegazi was banned, declined comment.

Scrabble is a game that is played in 121 countries in 29 languages.