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

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Gold Coast United has reached the point of no return, with owner Clive Palmer engaging in a public war of words with the governing body, Football Federation Australia, coach Miron Bleiberg quitting after his farcical suspension, and the exodus of players beginning.

In the week since my last column, written in the wake of their lowest home crowd of the season, the club has self-imploded with Palmer doing the detonating.

From the appointment of a 17-year-old debutant as captain, the suspension of arguably their strongest asset, Bleiberg, who has subsequently quit the club, to James Brown kick-starting the player exodus by signing with the Newcastle Jets.

With Palmer reportedly meeting with the players today to discuss the future of the club, there appears to be little he can say to stop them from running to Coolangatta Airport and getting out of the rabble that is Gold Coast United.

After all, following his comments over the weekend, why should anyone hang around?

“I don’t even like the game,” Palmer told The Sunday Mail. “I think it’s a hopeless game. Rugby league’s a much better game.

“The club is a very small, insignificant portion of what I do. We’ve got over $20 billion of projects.”

And there, in a few quotes, is what is fundamentally flawed with Gold Coast United. It is Clive Palmer’s Gold Coast United, not Gold Coast’s Gold Coast United – and that’s always been the case.

Bleiberg has rightly resigned, telling the Courier-Mail “I’ll not be back”

“Clive can take my job but he took away my dignity – no one can take away my dignity.

“If Clive wanted to hurt me, he succeeded. If he didn’t mean to hurt me, he made a mistake.”

Ever since Palmer’s blustering entry into the league with brash comments of undefeated seasons, private jets and more, the club became an extension of his own ego and persona.

So why should the people of the Gold Coast care and commit to the club when their figurehead seemingly doesn’t?

It’s all downhill from here, surely – no coach, few players signed on beyond this season, what fans that remain surely questioning their loyalty to a club that is “insignificant” in the eyes of its owner, and with the governing body preparing to find any means necessary to kick them out of the competition.

Palmer’s licence agreement for Gold Coast United doesn’t expire till 2014, and despite his controversial comments, followed by the lukewarm response from the FFA, it appears the mining magnate isn’t ready to walk away without a fight.

“If we wanted to stay (in the A-League) and they (FFA) wanted to take it (the licence) off us, they’d all be in court, and Ben Buckley would run a thousand miles,” Palmer said.

“That’s the reality of it. They can say what they like … the A-League’s a joke. I don’t think I’ll ever talk to Ben again in my life, to be honest.”

If Palmer and Gold Coast United CEO Clive Mensink, Palmer’s partner in the mining world, decide they want to hang around, the FFA faces the challenging task of finding someway to either remove Palmer and Mensink from the club (but then who would want to takeover the damaged remains?) or remove the club from the competition.

The buck stops with Palmer and Mensink unless there is some legal recourse the FFA can call on.

Palmer seems to be holding out hope on moving the club out of its expensive Skilled Park renting agreement, which costs a reported $40,000 per match to the Queensland sate government (according to SBS’s The World Game), and into the council-owned Southport Tigers Rugby League Club ground.

According to The World Game, “Palmer is prepared to sink $250,000 into redeveloping the ground, which currently has just one stand – built at his own expense – into an A-League fit stadium with revamped change rooms and floodlights,” turning it into 5000-capacity stadium.

Not only does it help the bottom line, it’s a far more realistic size stadium for a club that at its last home game only filled six percent of Skilled Park (1723 in a 27,400-seat stadium).

But even if Palmer gets his way and Gold Coast United moves into Southport, his club’s brand is in tatters, with a series of own goals that has seen that club go from the 10,336 crowd that watched them defeat English Premier League side Fulham 2-1 at their birth to their current 3704 average or the 1723 that attended their last home game. Those who have stood by the club have every right to walk away after Palmer’s comments.

This current situation highlights the flaw in handing a license to Palmer: the club and, in many ways, the A-League’s future in Queensland’s second biggest region at the mercy of one man, who makes his fortune elsewhere and has little intimate knowledge or care of how the sport operates.

Now the FFA is paying the price for that mistake, with its expansion moves in tatters as Gold Coast follows the sorry path of North Queensland Fury.

With the Gold Coast Suns AFL club established and on the rise as they mature into the competition and marketplace, the Gold Coast Titans NRL club battling for their own renaissance, the Gold Coast Blaze NBL club a competitive summer opponent, and the possibility that Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League could expand into the Gold Coast, United appears to have little hope of surviving in a market that arguably can’t sustain all these clubs.

It was always questionable whether Gold Coast could sustain an A-League franchise. But once Palmer and co started on the path of tarnishing their own brand – no community engagement, setting incredibly unrealistic expectations, crowd caps, public war of words, internal bickering and more – they had no chance of rectifying given they were selling to a region as competitive and fickle as the Gold Coast.

Today the club is officially a basket case. They will claim the wooden spoon, as they were always destined to do when they failed to replace their departing big names at the end of last season with experience, relying far too heavily on youth. And the squabble over the future will only drive that promising youth to other more stable clubs.

To add insult to injury, Wednesday night’s rescheduled home match against league leaders, the Central Coast Mariners, looms as a further embarrassment; their record lowest crowd of 1658 surely in danger of being lowered.

If the FFA can convince Palmer to move on, then the priority switches to filling the void – keeping the A-League at 10 teams is vital at a time when the governing body is negotiating the next television rights deal, and western Sydney remains fertile land for the game.

This should be a motivator – two birds with the one stone. Easier said than done, yes, but essential for the league as it stands at the crossroads. There’s no alternative.

The damage is well and truly done on the Gold Coast. There is no going back.

In response to Palmer’s comments, Ben Buckley said, “I remind Clive that as a chairman and owner of a club, he has obligations to the competition, his fellow club chairman and investors in the other nine clubs, and to the game itself.”

Gold Coast had already let down the competition, the other nine clubs and the game itself before Palmer’s comments. The reality is it does so every time it plays at home and cameras beam pictures of empty grandstands across the country. As I wrote last week, that does untold damage to the A-League brand.

This, now, is beyond bad publicity. Gold Coast United and Palmer must go.

More opinion:
Mike Tuckerman: Say goodbye to Gold Coast United
Luke Doherty: A-League’s Palmer feud expected to drag on

Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino

Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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The Crowd Says (69)

  • February 20th 2012 @ 9:18am
    striker said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:18am | ! Report

    Please FFA get rid of this trash of a man from our game his having a go at the whole code beacuse he ran his club into the ground now its the A-League fault there a shambles of a club go to hell Palmer you disgrace were doing fine without your billions.

  • February 20th 2012 @ 9:29am
    Midfielder said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

    Imagine the people that have to work with this guy… talk about when power and money go to yopur head…. from what you read he is often in court and falls out with many who do business with him…

    He has done nothing wrong that would get him kicked out … but enough to be kicked out then sue for being kicked out…

    BB when all this is over needs to explain how he selected the expansion teams… and left Canberra, the Gong …. the debacle of WS when the guy who had the money and grounds and pre signed agreements with the state league teams and the associations pulled out because of the Rovers bid things…

    However this guy is a clown… and from where I sit wants to be kicked out so he can sue for being kicked out…

  • February 20th 2012 @ 9:39am
    sheek said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

    Well, this is the downside of private equity – when an obscenely wealthy & arrogant entrepreneur believes the individual is bigger than the club, or the game.

    While I believe the A-League will eventually be a great comp, this is a salutary lesson to other footy codes (especially NRL) about the clarity of expanding wisely, & within your means.

    Already in just 9 seasons, we’ve seen the demise of NZ Knights, NQld Fury & West Sydney Rovers. Yes, Rovers were shelved without playing a game, & they may yet get a start. But nevertheless, it demonstrates the folly of the FFA, through Frank Lowy’s urging, of expanding too quickly, before the current initial clubs were properly bedded down.

    There is another observation I would like to make here – only the 5 major capital cities, with populations over one million each, are capable of sustaining a club across 4 different football codes. These 5 cities have the fan base, the corporate sponsorship, the media clout & the diversity to sustain clubs across 4 footy codes.

    Sydney & Melbourne, our most populous cities, each have 13 clubs across 4 footy codes. Sydney has 9 in the NRL, two in the AFL, & one each in A-league & Super Rugby. They might soon have two in A-League.

    Melbourne has 9 in the AFL (excluding Geelong), two in the A-League, & one each in the NRL & SR. Brisbane & Perth each have 4 clubs – Brisbane one in each code – AFL, NRL, A-League & SR. Perth has 2 in AFL, & one each in A-League & SR. Adelaide is represented thrice by 2 in AFL & one in A-League.

    Clearly, those cities whose populations fall short of a million – Gold Coast, Newcastle, Canberra & Central Coast, are not yet ready to sustain a club across the 4 footy codes. They must choose where to direct their resources.

    Gold Coast is represented in both NRL & AFL, while its A-League team looks doomed; Newcastle is represented in NRL & A-League; Canberra is represented in NRL & SR, while Central Coast is currently represented only in A-League.

    Expansion is necessary to extract greater revenue streams from broadcasters & sponsors, & attract more fans, but it is not a guaranteed windfall. Decisions on expansion must be made judiciously, & wisely.

    • February 20th 2012 @ 2:01pm
      cos789 said | February 20th 2012 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      Good post. Major cities are where the advertising is written and targeted. Centres like Townsville, Gold Coast, Wollongong, Newcastle, Canberra and Geelong can only realistically support 1-2 clubs each.

      Perth and Brisbane are the likely locations of NRL expansion, making Perth 2 AFL, 1 NRL, 1 A League, 1 SR and Brisbane 2 NRL, 1 AFL, 1 A League, 1 SR>

      Adelaide will continue to be the smallest of the 5 capital markets. I don’t believe Adelaide can sustain any more sides than it does currently.

      We will probably see an A league team in Parramatta if Gold Coast goes belly up, but it will be hard for AL to go beyond 10 teams. They should be aiming at a low risk aproach – concentrate on SE Australia, where the population is.

      SR is at saturation point. Will be a long time before it expands again.

  • February 20th 2012 @ 9:44am
    Antonio said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:44am | ! Report

    Without blue seat united the Morwell green seats continuing pathetic attendances will come under more scrutiny.

  • February 20th 2012 @ 9:49am
    King of the Gorgonites said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

    mmmmm very interesting……

    and this was the sport that was gonig to tak over Australia?

    at least by getting rid of GCU the average attendance of the HAL would increase.

    • February 20th 2012 @ 9:59am
      Titus said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      I guess it is preferable to the entire competition falling over, ala the Australian Rugby Thingamiship

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2012 @ 10:02am
        The Cattery said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:02am | ! Report


        KOGS deserves a rebuke, but don’t fall into the same trap of delving into things that don’t need to be delved into and which have nothing to do with the main story.

      • February 20th 2012 @ 10:51am
        Titus said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        You’re right TC, apologies.

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2012 @ 10:00am
      The Cattery said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:00am | ! Report


      I have to object to the tone of your post. This is not a time to be dancing on anyone’s grave.

      It’s a big, big sports story, and there are lessons here for all sporting bodies, and not only that, ordinary people are affected by this sort of nonsense, and I think it’s incumbent on all sports fans to stand up and say that it’s unacceptable.

      • February 20th 2012 @ 10:39am
        King of the Gorgonites said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        i am dancing on no ones grave. i know that the rebels could face that same prospect if soem important people pull the plug. its a useful remidner of the pitfalls of private ownership.

    • February 20th 2012 @ 10:04am
      striker said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      King you just have to look at the MLS since it began nearly 20 years ago it also has cut teams at the start now its booming so this comp wont die like you wish if anything this will be better without GCU bring on westerny sydney the heartland of the game.

      • February 20th 2012 @ 10:40am
        King of the Gorgonites said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        agree. GWS needs a team. parramatta stadium would be ideal.

        • February 20th 2012 @ 2:10pm
          cos789 said | February 20th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

          What is GWS? Seriously, its a made up thing. The A League would be wise to steer clear of that name.

          West Sydney or Parramatta should be the name used.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2012 @ 2:17pm
            The Cattery said | February 20th 2012 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

            In fact, when the original West Sydney license was awared to the Sydney Rovers, the promoters of that name argued that for marketing purposes it was best to steer clear of any name that contained West or Western in it.

            • February 20th 2012 @ 9:03pm
              joe blackswan said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

              I would have thought Greater Western Sydney as a name is a good throw net over a large population and area, and thus fan base….certainly helps establish rivalry/division with the incumbent team’s fan base. Whilst it is a mouth full, I think AFL did well here.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2012 @ 9:07pm
              The Cattery said | February 20th 2012 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

              I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, I’m just relaying what I recall reading at the time of the Sydney Rovers bid.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2012 @ 2:26pm
            Griffo said | February 20th 2012 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

            Geographically, Greater Western Sydney is huge.

            I haven’t met any Sydney-siders yet who thought transportation across the metropolis was that great.

            Really two, maybe three teams with boutique stadiums could occupy what is termed the GWS to allow for transportation to venue…

            …and that doesn’t include Wollongong.

            The FFA really stuffed up the Wollongong bid when they required all bids had to include Western Sydney in it’s catchment area.

            Will still need work to make it successful, though.

    • February 20th 2012 @ 11:03am
      Nathan of Perth said | February 20th 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Well to be fair, your sport was supposed to as well!

  • February 20th 2012 @ 11:02am
    Luke said | February 20th 2012 @ 11:02am | ! Report

    What have the FFA done to mend the relationship between themselves and Palmer? Palmers obviously frustrated but whats been done to not let things get to this point?

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2012 @ 11:34am
      The Cattery said | February 20th 2012 @ 11:34am | ! Report

      it’s a good question, but we are probably now well past the point of no return. Smithies in the DT is saying this morning that Lowy has made a decision to throw GCU out and go to 9 teams next season – but that ain’t backed up by any other mediea reprot that I have seen.

      As Roarchild has intimated on other threads, the trendline for this sort of occurence has been heading in the same direction for a long time now, and CP being who and what he is, I doubt anyone could have intervened.

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