“The A-League is a joke.” There, in a nutshell, is the problem of getting into bed with the devil.
We talk about the need for football people to run our clubs and Clive Palmer has made it palpably clear he is not one of those.
Palmer’s outburst in yesterday’s Sunday Mail may have been extraordinary, but surely it was also calculated.
It was as considered as the decision to appoint a 17-year-old rookie as captain was calculated.
Just as the slashing of the wage bill at the end of last season and the signing of players to one-year contracts was calculated.
Just like getting offside with a proud and clearly competent coach like Miron Bleiberg was calculated. Did Palmer want Bleiberg to quit as coach of the Robina side? I think so.
Why else would he have publicly belittled a coach who led his team into successive finals series?
Perhaps because he thinks the A-League is “a joke” and men like Bleiberg are expendable.
“I don’t even like the game,” Palmer told the Sunday Mail’s resident football journalist Marco Monteverde. “I think it’s a hopeless game. Rugby league’s a much better game.”
So why invest time and money into the sport in the first place? Is it because Palmer the businessman thought it was a sure-fire way to score points in football-mad Asia?
Or like the archetypal playground bully, did Palmer simply feel his status as Queensland’s richest man would buy him instant sporting success, only to turn around and throw a tantrum because things haven’t gone his way?
How else can United make a statement saying Bleiberg has been “disrespectful,” only for the club’s owner to say two days later he thinks football is a “hopeless game?”
One rule for Bleiberg and another rule for Palmer? Absolutely.
Because Palmer has always wanted to run his football club as an oligarchy. And he’s always been frustrated at the thought of having to play by somebody else’s rules.
One gets the sense that when the FFA politely dismissed some of his less helpful suggestions – the football “State of Origin” idea springs immediately to mind – Palmer was genuinely shocked.
And while it may be cliché to suggest Palmer doesn’t hear the word “no” too often, surely there’s some truth behind it.
Because every time Palmer has been criticised for the way he runs Gold Coast United, he has reacted by doing or saying something even more outlandish.
The only question remaining is why?
Why deliberately antagonise and provoke such a backlash if there are still two years of his A-League licence to run?
Having decided Gold Coast United is no longer his preferred plaything, is Palmer simply burning all his bridges before relinquishing control?
That’s what I think is happening. Palmer said it himself.
“The club is a very small, insignificant portion of what I do,” he said yesterday.
I can’t see one of those projects being Gold Coast United once the 2011-12 campaign is over. Whether FFA can afford to take over at yet another club is another matter entirely.
For now, the competition has a real problem on its hands.
Clive Palmer has made it clear he has no interest in the A-League.
Football fans – starting with what’s left of United’s support – should make it clear we have no interest in having him.
Because the sooner Palmer is hounded out of the A-League, the quicker we can move on from the sorry mess that is this club inexorably bound for extinction.