Palmer to get FFA dressing down after fan revolt over cap
The FFA is waiting on billionaire owner Clive Palmer’s reaction to a Gold Coast fan revolt before moving to end his controversial crowd cap.
With major A-League sponsor Hyundai understood to be furious, a showdown between the sport’s governing body and Queensland’s richest man looms this week.
The FFA desperately hopes Palmer shelves his stadium cost-cutting measures before the besieged Coast host Sydney FC at Skilled Park on Saturday night.
But few expect him to budge despite disgruntled United supporters sending a loud and clear message during the 2-0 loss to North Queensland on Saturday night.
Just 2,616 fans – the club’s lowest attendance and one of the smallest crowds in the competition’s five-year history – were on hand as former Liverpool star Robbie Fowler exacerbated the Coast’s week from hell with a second-half double.
Of those, the hardiest and most loyal fans made their displeasure known at capping attendance at 5,000 to save $100,000 in high stadium costs.
United supporters group “The Beach” – waving banners that read ‘Cap is Crap’, ‘Want fans not dollars’ and ‘Scrap the Cap’ – turned their backs on the game at one stage and chanted ‘Stop the Cap’.
They also broke past security guards containing the small crowd in the western grandstand to briefly set up shop in their usual position behind the goals in a vacant northern stand.
A-League boss Archie Fraser is set to meet in person with Palmer over the issue for the first time in the coming days.
While guarded about its strategy, the FFA isn’t about to sit back and idly allow crowds to be limited.
As any fine would be small change to the mining magnate, who is valued at $5.5 billion, revoking Palmer’s licence could not be ruled out as his stance runs contrary to the club’s participation agreement.
With Sydney FC sitting atop of the A-League, the FFA are determined to move before Saturday night’s clash.
“Next week is another big game against a top side in Sydney FC and on paper this match should be attracting a healthy crowd,” an FFA spokeswoman said.
“It should be a high-quality encounter between two talented teams and it’s a great pity if it can’t be enjoyed by a big crowd.”
Palmer and United chief executive Clive Mensink could not be contacted for comment on Sunday but coach Miron Bleiberg denied the small crowd affected his team against Fowler’s Fury.
“I was quite surprised with the atmosphere today and I thought the noise was as usual and our supporters were as loyal and as noisy and entertained themselves,” he said.
Bleiberg, criticised by Fraser for self-promotion during the week, began his post-match press conference by stating he did not want to attend.
He ended it by earning the ire of Fraser, who sat quietly at the back of the room.
“I’ve got an idea, Archie can you listen?” Bleiberg said.
“Maybe we should do the 8,000 (attending Brisbane Roar matches) and 2,000 from here and (make a) 10,000 double-header. You pay one rent and you get 10,000 people.”
Fraser was unimpressed, replying: “Just open the stadium up. It’s not hard.”
Topping off a dreadful week for the Coast was a serious knee injury to Brazilian midfielder Robson which may require surgery and sideline him for two months.
Meanwhile, Alex Brosque led Sydney FC to a 3-1 thumping of Wellington Phoenix at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday to maintain their lead at the top of the table one point clear of Melbourne Victory.
Brosque had a hand in all Sydney’s goals in a 20-minute blitz with his sick strike partner Mark Bridge scoring a double before being handed a deserved rest in the 53rd minute.
In the late match, Melbourne had their first win in Perth for more than three year, beating the Glory 2-1.
Sydney have 25 points, Melbourne 24 and Gold Coast are another four points behind in third place.
North Queensland managed to drag themselves off the bottom of the table with the 2-0 win, courtesy of a Robbie Fowler brace, on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.
Central Coast and Adelaide had a 0-0 draw in Canberra while Newcastle and Brisbane had a 1-1 draw to maintain their spots on the bottom of the table.© AAP 2013