Australian Scrabble squabble: ruling body forced to eat its words

By Byron Kaye 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 boardgame. But Hegazi failed to persuade the court to declare he had never cheated while playing the 77-year-old game that's played in 121 countries in 29 languages, Hegazi's lawyer Robert Frajsman said told Reuters. Hegazi was also ordered to pay costs of A$3,000 ($2,440). "Who would have thought that Scrabble would be a bloodsport?" Frajsman told Reuters by telephone. 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, 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 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, Hegazi feels "justified that he didn't lie down and cop it (and) stood up for what he firmly believed in", Frajsman added. The secretary of the association's Victorian branch at the time when Hegazi was banned, Marjorie Miller, declined comment. (Fixes garble in first paragraph) (Editing by Nick Macfie)