Palmer’s rebellion threatens A-League’s “bright future”

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Clive Palmer has wrought destruction on his own club (AAP Image/Laine Clark)

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The A-League was supposed to bring stability to Australia’s domestic football scene. On that front it has failed. Seven years into the competition’s history, the A-League’s future looks rocky.

First things first: Football Federation Australia should have waited until the end of the season to revoke Clive Palmer’s licence.

By taking the licence from him with four games of the regular season remaining, the FFA invited Palmer to respond at a critical juncture of the season.

That he has threatened legal action comes as no surprise. That he has established “Football Australia” – whatever it is supposed to entail – comes as more of a shock.

“The FFA has lurched from one disaster to another and needs to be replaced,” Palmer said in regard to the launch of what many are labelling a rebel league.

“The fans, players and people with a passion for football in Australia deserve better and Football Australia will be based on full transparency and corporate governance.”

Whether that means Palmer will actually set up a rival league is unclear. Contradicting statements suggested Football Australia is intended to be an independent watchdog.

FFA’s response was predictably terse.

“Once again an array of unsubstantiated claims and wild commentary have been made by Clive Palmer.

“The comments serve no purpose in any way to advance football in Australia,” they said in a press release, labelling Palmer’s antics a “farcical outburst.”

Sadly, some of what Palmer says makes sense – the “sadness” deriving from the fact he’s the wrong man to instigate change.

Let’s not forget this is an owner who has overseen the worst performing club in the league both on and off the pitch this season.

Yet the establishment of Football Australia will have the FFA worried on three fronts.

Firstly, they’ll face a court battle over revoking Palmer’s licence.

Secondly, the Asian Football Confedeation will be keeping a close eye on proceedings. Indeed, they’ve already released a statement saying they recognise only the FFA.

“According to the AFC Statutes, only one national association shall be officially recognised in each country by the AFC. Accordingly, the AFC will only recognise and deal with FFA on all football matters concerning Australia,” the AFC said.

And when the AFC get involved, we can be certain FIFA won’t be too far behind.

Palmer’s reaction to the revocation of his licence was predictable, but the impact would have been lessened had the FFA waited until the conclusion of the season to act.

That Frank Lowy saw the day of a World Cup qualifier as the best time to do so smacks of one-hard nosed billionaire desperately trying to one-up another.

And far from having the best interests of football at heart, Palmer appears just as hellbent on getting the better of Lowy.

The FFA have one more problem as far as billionaires are concerned, with Newcastle Jets’ owner Nathan Tinkler reportedly fuming about the cost of his licence fee.

If Tinkler decides to get on board with Palmer’s “revolution,” the FFA will soon be staring down the challenge of not one, but two of Australia’s richest men.

Tinkler has clout, and not just in a financial sense.

Just under 30,000 fans turned out in the rain last night to watch the Newcastle Knights go around against St George Illawarra in the NRL, and you can bet most of those fans care more about watching a winning team than who administers their league.

With Tinkler also in charge of the Jets and the city of Newcastle in the thralls of his power, any potential Palmer-Tinkler axis poses a real problem for the FFA.

This whole affair is a nightmare for the powers that be and it could have been avoided with better handling of the figures involved in the first place.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but further mismanagement from the FFA will threaten what Frank Lowy termed just two days ago the A-League’s “bright future.”

Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and was a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008 to July 2014.
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