There has been a rush to condemn Clive Palmer after his anti-football comments on the weekend, but stop for a second and you might just hear a man raising some valid concerns about the financing and governance of the round ball game in Australia.
They are essentially the words of a man frustrated by the continuing struggle of clubs to make ends meet. Even if his reign as owner of Gold Coast United has been a laughing stock for the most part, he has been closer than most to workings of Football Federation Australia.
He, as much as anyone, understands the financial constraints with which teams operate in the A-League.
It’s unlikely he’s the only one frustrated by the framework and support provided by the governing body.
Speak privately to any number of A-League club owners and you’re likely to get a similar take, perhaps not on the record, but certainly they’d be just as unhappy.
Often the silence tells a tale.
Palmer is not the type to keep quiet, and after a few years of bleeding, $18 million dollars by his reckonening, he has just about had enough.
Other owners mightn’t be so public, but few, if any, are looking at a favourable bottom line.
Recently Tony Sage has been spotted among some rugby league folk. Read into it what you will.
Among Palmer’s biggest gripes appears to be the current TV deal with Foxsports, a seven year, $120 million deal that was signed after the competition’s first season.
Break it down and it amounts to less than $18 million a season. Spilt that out among 10 clubs, at least nine national teams and the running of FFA headquarters and there isn’t much change left.
At the time, of course, the FFA couldn’t say no to that type of money, but there’s an argument the length of the deal has held back the growth of the game since the initial post-Crawford buzz.
I wrote more that 14 months ago that it would be in everyone’s interests if the FFA were able to re-negotiate a deal to have a slice of the A-League on free-to-air TV.
In it, I quoted former A-League head Archie Fraser;
“The competition needs to be promoted properly and there needs to be a renegotiating of the TV rights deal with Fox which allows a free to air component. While the contract isn’t up until 2013, deals are renegotiated all the time and if the FFA thought it could land a World Cup and only ended up with one vote, surely it can go out and tweak a deal which has left the code hidden from a great majority of the public.”
Alas, nothing has yet happened on that front and the game waits, bickering and bleeding, almost limping to the next broadcast deal, hoping it brings a prosperous future.