Another day, another further stride into the mire for Australian football, thanks to rogue Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer.
Now the game has a new body, ‘Football Australia’, led by Palmer to either remove Football Federation Australia or campaign against the governing body.
It’s hard to tell.
‘Football Australia’ has a name, conveniently similar to the Football Federation Australia’s, a logo and even a slogan – “We Kick Harder”.
Yes, you read that right, “We Kick Harder”.
At that point, I was sure this was a joke, until Palmer revealed Archie Fraser, the former chief of the A-League, as the inaugural CEO of his new body.
Now we know why Fraser, who we thought was an in the know observer, was so fervently backing Palmer and raising the prospect of a potential breakaway league.
Yet from their first day of existence there were huge contradictions coming from ‘Football Australia’, Palmer and Fraser. While initial statements suggested the aim of the newly found body was to replace Football Federation Australia, in keeping with the breakaway insinuations, in later media briefings they were quick to distance themselves from leading a breakaway league separate of the current governing body.
“Secondary competitions are difficult, there are a whole range of things that would have to be sanctioned so that’s not really what we’re about today,” Fraser said to the press, seemingly forgetting his comments from earlier in the week suggesting a breakaway led by club owners was a possibility.
“I would certainly extend my hand to the senior executives and the chairman of the FFA to actually embrace this and get involved.”
So was the easing of the threats as the remarkable day went on in response to the lukewarm response they received from other clubs? Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, who has been a vocal critic of Football Federation Australia, quickly distanced himself from the row. And there was little to no response from Nathan Tinkler’s Newcastle Jets, who must surely be looking to his Wayne Bennett-led NRL club as a welcome distraction from the goings-on with his round-ball club.
If a breakaway league or attempt to replace Football Federation Australia is the goal, then it needs the support of the clubs, so the ball is well and truly in their court. But hopefully we can take from Sage and Tinkler’s silence on ‘Football Australia’ and the other clubs’ unwillingness to engage in this debate as a sign that they are disinterested knowing the irrevocable damage it would cause; that rather than Palmer representing the masses he is leading the minority.
As the clubs have hopefully realised, Palmer isn’t the man to unite behind. Yes, Football Federation Australia has its flaws and needs to reform, but Palmer’s handling of this matter, Gold Coast United and even his other businesses (why has he been involved in 68 court cases?) shows that he is not the right person to led this change.
The clubs should also take note of the consequences of a breakaway. The Asian Football Confederation and by extension FIFA will only recognise Football Federation Australia as the official affiliated member association representing Australian football, for clubs and country.
If they and other Palmer supporters, who remarkably seem to think the code can survive all this, want to see the impact of a rival league, take a look at Indonesia, where the game is in a mess following the creation of a separate, rebel league.
So what on earth is the point of ‘Football Australia’, then? If the intention is work within the current frameworks of the governing body, what role does it play? To “monitor and ensure good governance”, as Palmer described, as an independent football body with some divine right to cast judgment on the government body? So in other words a think tank made up of disgruntled employees?
So are they the right people to provide a fair and balanced watchdog over the governing body? Really?
It’s hard to tell what’s going on in all this. Who would have believed it would have gone this far? On the one hand you could come to the conclusion that these are mere maneuverings as Clive Palmer and Football Federation Australia get set for a court battle over the revocation of Gold Coast United’s licence.
This is perhaps Palmer, with more money than sense, willing to deflect blame and portray his club as the innocent victims of an incompetent governing body by any means necessary.
This is likely a group of disgruntled Football Federation Australia victims eager to fight back, that have the means and desire to create their own shop, grouped together yet unsure of how to utilise this new found power.
Yesterday’s events stunk of a shambolic series of events with the perpetrators not sure where it would all lead.
If we can take anything from the events of yesterday it’s that Palmer and Fraser and any of the other brains of the ‘Football Australia’ operation don’t know what they stand for and where they are going.
Their comments, given their track records, represent the height of hypocrisy – no better than the governing body they are taking up are against. So how can they justify themselves as the saviours of the game – the good against the bad?
The sad thing is by polarising this saga and forcing Football Federation Australia to take up an even more aggressive stance, they are perhaps precluding the reforms of the game this new body is calling for. These actions have further divided a game beset by long-standing divisions.
Perhaps that’s their intention – divide and conquer.
Australian football is well and truly in the mire.
Remember the actual football? There is a final series around the corner, if you didn’t realise.