A-League may hit rock bottom thanks to the Coast

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    Police direct Gold Coast United fans after they stormed a closed off area of stadium in protest of a crowd cap at Skilled Park during the round 13 A-League match between the Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury , Saturday, October 31, 2009. Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer made the decision this week to limit the Skilled Park crowd to 5,000 people to save on stadium fees.  AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

    Police direct Gold Coast United fans after they stormed a closed off area of stadium in protest of a crowd cap at Skilled Park during the round 13 A-League match between the Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury , Saturday, October 31, 2009. Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer made the decision this week to limit the Skilled Park crowd to 5,000 people to save on stadium fees. AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

    What a sad twist of fate that the two A-League matches which were always going to be overshadowed by crowd-watching happened to be back-to-back on Saturday night; underscoring a deplorable week for the league.

    First we were in Canberra for a dour scoreless draw between Central Coast and Adelaide.

    Residents of the nation’s capital have every right to feel aggrieved at the FFA over the manner in which they were bypassed for the 12th A-League franchise; overlooked despite the debacle of finding a suitable licensee in west Sydney.

    However, a crowd of 5,437 was a slight improvement on the 5,139 who turned up earlier in the season for Central Coast-Perth, and it was encouraging, especially in response to talk of a potential boycott by locals over the franchise snub. Credit to those who turned up.

    But the focus Saturday night was always going to be on Skilled Park, and it was ugly.

    The sight of a bare stadium – with cameras facing away from the only side with a crowd – was a terrible one for lovers of the game.

    As North Queensland gained the upper hand thanks to the magic of Robbie Fowler, attention turned to the announcement of the crowd figures. It was like a ticking time bomb.

    And then it came: 2,616.

    It was always going to be bad.

    Fans had every right to turn their backs on the club following the message they sent in capping crowds and blocking three-quarters of the ground to them.

    It was, in hindsight, surprising that amount turned up.

    The club was deserving of the wooden spoon for the lowest crowd in A-League history – that honour belonging to the defunct New Zealand Knights.

    But credit to those who did turn up; brandishing signs such as: “Want bigger crowds Clive? Ask us how”. The community was reaching out to the club. It should be the other way round.

    And credit to the Gold Coast fans that broke ranks and headed to the stand behind the goals. What a fantastic form of protest; showing United does have a core group of supporters who are passionate about the club.

    As Simon Hill correctly outlined in the telecast, Gold Coast attracted over 10,000 for the friendly against Fulham. 7,526 watched their Round 2 meeting against the Fury at Skilled Park.

    The decline since then – made even more stark by their on-field performances in the opening rounds – is self-inflicted.

    All the bravado and bluster of the Gold Coast’s entry was all for nothing. Talk of an undefeated season, boasting about its private jet, and general arrogance all fell on deaf ears.

    In light of this recent debacle, it’s difficult to see how the club is going to be able to build a sustainable supporter base, especially with the AFL franchise on the horizon.

    This was meant to be the franchise that would give the A-League a boost this season. Help spice up the competition, fuelled by Clive Palmer’s billions with a squad brimming with talent. Instead it has become a basket case with on-field performances starting to replicate the off-field decline.

    Perhaps the players are feeling the strain of being part of such a directionless club.

    Consider the contrast with North Queensland Fury.

    The Fury had been stuck at the bottom of the A-League table until last night; impeded by numerous injuries that impacted an already thin squad, taking until round twelve to win a home-game.

    However, they are steadily building a solid supporter base off the back of community engagement.

    Crowds haven’t been mighty, but they are, nevertheless, impressive considering the population base in Townsville. Supporters are wearing the club’s colours with pride, no doubt as a result of its school visits, coaching clinics, charities and work with local clubs.

    Want proof? See the community programs run by the Fury as opposed to the Gold Coast, who have no such community programs listed on their website.

    It’s a stark and blatantly obvious point of difference between the two clubs.

    Supporter bases are built through community engagement. And the Gold Coast has failed, badly, in this regard. The damage, sadly, may be too severe to repair.

    Gold Coast’s approach seems to be an exaggerated example of the line taken by the FFA marketers regarding the A-League’s engagement with the public.

    The “build it and they will come” mantra doesn’t work, not for domestic football in this country. Gold Coast has proven that it takes more than stars and results to build a franchise.

    Other new franchises need to learn from these differing approaches regarding engaging with their communities. And the FFA needs to act on this disaster before the league hits rock bottom as a result of Gold Coast’s impertinence.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (156)

    • November 1st 2009 @ 3:37am
      Victer said | November 1st 2009 @ 3:37am | ! Report

      A sad episode of our young league, but this lesson had to be learnt in some way. I’m hoping Heart and West Sydney are paying close attention. Treat people with respect, I feel for those 4000 or so supporters who desperately tried to make this happen.

    • November 1st 2009 @ 5:55am
      Kurt said | November 1st 2009 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      I couldn’t resist revisiting a couple of comments Palmer made earlier this year about the AFL:

      “That’s not enough to support a new franchise,” (referring to a crowd of 4369 that attended a pre-season practice match)

      “The biggest loser’s going to be GC17 and Australian rules itself. I give them three years – they’ll be gone by 2014.”

      To which we can only add – that’s about 2 years longer than your rubbish little soccer team is going to last fat boy!

      • November 1st 2009 @ 11:58am
        Victer said | November 1st 2009 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        wow what a boring post

      • November 1st 2009 @ 12:11pm
        bever fever said | November 1st 2009 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        Searle’s comments have been worse and the GC 17 mob have not said one word back in anger, just getting on with the job.

        I think Mr Palmer has five daughters, private ownership never really works.

        • November 1st 2009 @ 12:28pm
          KB said | November 1st 2009 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

          “wow what a boring post”

          Victer,
          not to be out done by the four x two block of wood from Wally World — the go it alone home boy stud from WA ways in with his contribution… 😆

          ~~~~~~~
          KB

          • November 1st 2009 @ 12:39pm
            bever fever said | November 1st 2009 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

            You mean weighs in.

            This has to be the one of the biggest stuff ups in Australian sports history, soccer and private ownership has been exposed for what it is once again.

            I did see an item on the news did you have your back to the play in defiance of Mr Palmer, was it more exciting than the game.

            • November 1st 2009 @ 1:23pm
              Crazy Dave said | November 1st 2009 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

              Private ownership can work… see The Broncos and The Rabbitohs in the NRL…

            • November 1st 2009 @ 1:31pm
              KB said | November 1st 2009 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

              Freudian slip — good work – remember

              ~~~~~~
              KB

              • Roar Guru

                November 1st 2009 @ 5:53pm
                Redb said | November 1st 2009 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

                KB,

                you dont seem yourself?

                Redb

      • Roar Guru

        November 1st 2009 @ 5:53pm
        Redb said | November 1st 2009 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

        Can’t help but agree. Stick that Clive 🙂

      • March 1st 2010 @ 7:58am
        Sameth said | March 1st 2010 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Lol… considering we broke the top three in our inaugural season against established teams, I wouldn’t call us rubbish 😉 good luck keeping pace with us champ.

    • Roar Guru

      November 1st 2009 @ 6:20am
      Freud of Football said | November 1st 2009 @ 6:20am | ! Report

      Palmer needs to re-negotiate the stadium deal pronto.

      We can’t expect him to shell out $100K a game when crowds go from 5000 to 5001 and the league can’t afford to have such a poor showing at a new franchise.

      Work something out that is amicable, none of these ridiculous price-hikes when one extra fan shows up.

      • November 1st 2009 @ 8:22am
        midfield general said | November 1st 2009 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Yes you’re right but I don’t like his chances since Palmer is a key national party figure in Queensland and from what I understand he is taking some sort of legal action against Anna Bligh, the premier. He’s a successful businessman but he’s starting to look like a megalomaniac out of his depth. Wouldn’t surprise me if GCU fold before the end of season.

    • November 1st 2009 @ 7:15am
      megatron said | November 1st 2009 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      I too was surprised 2600 turned up. They deserved no one

    • November 1st 2009 @ 7:21am
      Luke W said | November 1st 2009 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      It’s disgraceful. Like you said, this is most likely irreversible. It would take years to win fans back from the treatment they have received, and with the new AFL franchise, as well as the established Titans, I don’t think United will have the time. The only way GCU will survive from this horror season is if somehow the team can finish first or second, make the grand final and qualify for the ACL. Anything less than that will not capture the imagination of the Gold Coast public. But I think Clive needs to take the 100k he saved last night and give out free tickets to every kid playing junior football on the Gold Coast.

      • November 1st 2009 @ 8:24pm
        constantine said | November 1st 2009 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

        AFL is not run in parallel to football, i dont see how much it can affect it especially given that next year the season will start later

        • Roar Guru

          November 1st 2009 @ 8:30pm
          Pippinu said | November 1st 2009 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

          Also – GC17 doesn’t start till 2011 – so that’s basically an additional season GCU gets to sort itself out.

          • November 1st 2009 @ 8:51pm
            megatron said | November 1st 2009 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

            GCU will need more than a season to sort this mess out an the AFL side will steal potential marketing dollars, attention and fans. GCU needed to strike now, before FC moved in, but they’ve failed

    • November 1st 2009 @ 8:21am
      Robbo said | November 1st 2009 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      If Clive is serious about the team surviving for more than a couple of months he should throw the gates open for the next game. Sure, he would lose a lot of money, but allowing everyone in for free for one game is just about the only thing I can think of that could save that club. He would probably make more in the long term by doing it.

      That said – they would still battle to pull 5,000 people.

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