Clive Palmer and his Gold Coast United club have been booted from the A-League AAP Image/John Pryke

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Many seem to be writing off the current dramas at Gold Coast United as nothing more than the whims of a man too rich for his own good.

But comments made by that very man – Gold Coast chairman and wealthy businessman Clive Palmer – during a live interview on “The World Game” suggest that football in Australia might fast be heading toward a watershed moment.

The on-and-off-field dramas of Gold Coast have been well documented and do not need repeating here. In recent times this turmoil has claimed the scalp of Miron Bleiberg and the future of the club now looks to be in grave doubt.

Things have come to a head with the troubled club, and the death knell seemed to have sounded when Palmer was quoted as saying that he didn’t like the game, and that the NRL was a better sport.

Yet when given the opportunity to speak live on “The World Game” Palmer was adamant that the future of Gold Coast was anything but bleak, and that he was still totally committed to the club.

Apparently what he meant in that now infamous interview was that he thought the administration of Australian football was a joke. He used the NRL as an example of a much better organised and administered code.

He also claimed that he was disgusted with the underhand payments or bungs to agents and other parties, common in player transfer negotiations. He said his decision to promote the youth in his club was to directly combat this phenomena.

Interestingly, none of the SBS panel took issue with the validity of this statement which he repeated a couple of times.

He further went on to suggest that several private owners of A-League clubs were unhappy with the way the sport was being run in this country and that he was in contact with them. Without actually saying so, he further implied that there might be some truth to speculation that the owners could break away from Football Federation Australia (FFA) and form their own competition, similar to the formation of the Premier League in England back in 1992.

Potentially this that could see the biggest change in Australian football since the Crawford Report effectively killed the National Soccer League.

The FFA runs both football and the A-League in this country. The FFA has steadfastly refused to give any control of the A- League to the clubs and the business individuals that run them.

The FFA currently controls the purse strings in Australia. Monies generated by the A- League and the rest of the sport goes into one big pot, which is then distributed to the A- League, the national sporting teams, “grass roots” football, and of course wages for the administrators of the FFA. It is my understanding that all the revenue from the finals go to the FFA, rather than directly to the clubs participating in them.

With the current contract coming to a close soon, future TV rights have been a looming issue in our sport. Clive went on to ask the question, who would be best placed to negotiate a new TV deal? Would it be CEO Ben Buckley and the FFA, or a group led by experienced businessmen such as Tony Sage, Nathan Tinkler and himself, men experienced in negotiating multi-billion-dollar deals in some of the toughest and most competitive markets in the world.

The FFA of course will not wear that suggestion as it takes away their primary source of income, one of the major reasons why Buckley remains in his role.

While in a utopian world, it would seem that the interests of the A- League and football in Australia should be one and the same, this is not the case.

The A- League was created by the FFA, and certainly needed the FFA to get it up and running. But for the A- League to reach its full potential now, it needs to start taking care of its own interests first. Unfortunately those will not always be in the best interest of the FFA; during the failed World Cup bid, the FFA demonstrated that its priorities were not always in line with the A- League.

To suggest that individuals such as Sage, Tinkler and Palmer would sit idly and have their businesses dictated to by the likes of Buckley seems to me to be extremely naïve.

Clive Palmer claims to have invested $18 million in Gold Coast over the past three seasons. While it is easy to sit back and write him off as ill-educated in the ways of the sport, his commitment has been as substantial as anyone. He certainly seems genuine in his future commitment to both Gold Coast and football in Australia.

You can write him off as a joke, but his business record certainly suggests he is anything but. I have a feeling that we will be hearing much more on this issue before very long.

Indeed, Clive Palmer might turn out to be this decade’s most important man in Australian football.

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The Crowd Says (23)

  • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:13am
    futbanous said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

    Clive is part of the evolution of football in Australia. To place him any higher or lower than anyone one else in the greater scheme of things would be a mistake.
    EIght years ago Clive ,Tinkler ,Sage,the Bakrie group wouldn’t have touched the game with a barge pole.
    He has despite his obvious lack of football knowledge(A big minus in understanding the nuances of World Football) made some valid points & grievances.
    Out of his grievances I see some parts being considered & acted on by the FFA.
    Thus adding to Footballs growth.
    An interesting article today by Archie Fraser another playing a part in the evolution of football in Australia adding to the debate.

    The main point to take from all this is that its not about one individual,its about greater sections of the broader Australian community caring what football does & how it does it.
    Lowy,Buckley,O’Neill,Palmer,Sage Tinkler as mentioned above,Fox & many more. Nobody cared outside the inner circle now they do. Of course the biggest influence by far the AFC
    However that brings deeper scrutinisation of the way the games run.
    I far one welcome it after decades of apathy.

    • Roar Guru

      February 23rd 2012 @ 10:05am
      The Cattery said | February 23rd 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      The Archie Fraser article is interesting.

      I wrote two days ago on this site about two camps of owners emerging, one camp wanting to breakaway from the FFA, and the other camp willing to remain loyal to the FFA for the time being.

      Archie Fraser confirms that about half of the owners would be interested in breaking away from the FFA – led by Palmer and Tinkler, could probably add the Adelaide group. Sage has publicly stated that he would not take part – but in the recent past he too has madeh is dissatisfaction known.

      The Melbourne teams and SFC appear to be in with FFA for the moment – no real way of knowing where the other owners stand currently.

    • February 23rd 2012 @ 3:29pm
      Jack Russell said | February 23rd 2012 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

      I don’t think it’s true that private investors wouldn’t touch the game 8 years ago. You had Tana and Afkos in Perth, and other consortiums invest in Northern Spirit, Carlton and Parramatta. Plenty of people kicked in millions of their own money.

      • February 23rd 2012 @ 4:42pm
        futbanous said | February 23rd 2012 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

        Agree many private investors,particularly from the ethnic background connected to some clubs. Many kept the NSL afloat. After all there wasn’t much else to support the competition & clubs financially.
        However my point wasn’t about private investors, it was about those particular individuals & overseas group mentioned.

        • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:15pm
          Jack Russell said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

          Wasn’t Northern Spirit owned by Rangers at one stage?

          I personally don’t think it’s changed much. Mega rich people like owning sports teams, it gives them a thrill. People own racehorses for the same reason. The reason why Palmer, Tinkler and Sage wouldn’t have invested in NSL clubs 10 years ago is because they weren’t rich back then. Not mega rich anyway. The only major difference now is that owning an A-League club costs a lot more money than an NSL club did.

    • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:06pm
      Stevo said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

      Agree. The HAL is just another important step in the evolution of football in Oz. That we are publicly talking about football at all is so far removed from what many of us observed a decade ago and much longer that it’s almost like we’re on another planet. Clive’s rant is simply putting on the table some issues that can no longer be ignored. FFA, and management in most work places, don’t like people coming out like Clive did because it gives the impression that they aren’t in control. FFA/Lowy have a vision of how things should work and Clive reckons that if owners are kicking in bucket loads of $$$$ then they too should have some say in how the money is spent. Clive isn’t a saint but this may be one of the more important discussions in the short history of the HAL.

      • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:16pm
        Stevo said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

        For what it’s worth, Cockerill’s article is interesting:

        “Who underwrites the A-League? The owners do, and it costs them, collectively, about $25 million per year. Last week we estimated those losses at about 0.135 per cent of their collective wealth. Peanuts. The vast majority of them can easily afford it. Yet still they cry poor, and slash and burn at every line item of expenditure. Why? Because of the principle.

        Partly, that’s because Lowy – one of Australia’s richest men – won’t kick the tin. That irks them. More and more, not less. And if Lowy won’t help underwrite the league, then he should at least give them more control over the business. It’s what they’ve asked for over the past few years, and been rebuffed. It’s what the past two federal government reviews (2003 and last year) have recommended. Inevitably, something has to give.”

  • February 23rd 2012 @ 9:33am
    pete4 said | February 23rd 2012 @ 9:33am | ! Report

    I think Palmer has brought more negatives to our game than positives. He has run GCU as a business to it’s detriment for it’s first 3 years and forgotten rule no.1… it’s fans. Crowd caps, 1 year contracts, low crowds and membership numbers tell you the story. Whether he has the will to change his attitude and actually try and promote the game in the region remains to be seen. The first thing he needs to do is stop calling it “his club” and try to re-engage the club with grassroots as well as existing/potential fans

  • February 23rd 2012 @ 10:21am
    Dillan said | February 23rd 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report

    “He certainly seems genuine in his future commitment to both Gold Coast and football in Australia”

    YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING… Take a look at his track record with Gold Coast – the club is a disgrace and you want this guy making decisions for FFA. He is the very last person I want involved making FFA decisions

    • February 23rd 2012 @ 2:40pm
      Michael said | February 23rd 2012 @ 2:40pm | ! Report


    • February 23rd 2012 @ 6:17pm
      amazonfan said | February 23rd 2012 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

      + 2

  • February 23rd 2012 @ 10:31am
    Dinoweb said | February 23rd 2012 @ 10:31am | ! Report

    As the writer of this piece, I would like to point out that I wrote and submitted it first thing on Tuesday morning, at a time when most opinion pieces and comments were focused on disecting individual comments made by Clive Palmer rather than what I thought was the most obvious and important thrust of his interview.

    The events of the past couple of days since then have borne out this view. Much more of course has now been said and come to light, and the stance of many has been made more clear.

    I still stand by the comment that CP may be the most important man in the sport for the past decade, but that does not mean to suggest that I think it is ethier a good or bad thing. Adolf Hitler was arguably the most important figure of the last century and we all know how that turned out.

    It remains to be seen how his comments of Monday night will effect the future course of the HAL and football in this country. Do not be mistaken. There will be effects.

  • Roar Guru

    February 23rd 2012 @ 1:14pm
    Fussball ist unser leben said | February 23rd 2012 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

    As I said earlier this week, Clive’s outburst is the way he sets the media agenda. I think he’s got everyone’s attention?

    Check out this video post-match interview from last night’s game. Clive Palmer cannot hide how proud he is and his enthusiasm for the game & GCU is infectious. He just needs to convey this message to the football community across the Gold Coast.

    As far as I’m concerned, this video does NOT portray of a guy who allegedly wants GCU to fail.


    • Roar Rookie

      February 23rd 2012 @ 4:45pm
      stam said | February 23rd 2012 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

      Fuss i’d like to pose the following question to you.
      As the most passionate supporter i’ve come across (both online and in the real world) I wonder how you’d feel if every club was run in the same manner as palmer is running GCU?

      Would you consider the HAL in a healthy state if every club was owned by a billionare that ensures clubs will survive but basically as a NYL, with the majority of players on 1 year contracts, crowds that have dropped by over half of what they where achieving, getting mainstream media coverage but for all the wrong reasons.

      I think its fair to say that the people of GCU have shown that they are not happy with what palmer is doing by the lackluster crowds that are showing up now.

      I wonder if you’d have the same opinion of palmer if he was the owner of melbourne victory?
      I know i wouldnt want heart to end up like that.

      • Roar Guru

        February 23rd 2012 @ 4:54pm
        Fussball ist unser leben said | February 23rd 2012 @ 4:54pm | ! Report


        I didn’t say I’m happy with the way Clive is managing GCU – far from it. What I’ve said is Clive Palmer has done more to promote HAL football across the Gold Coast than anyone else in Australia.

        So, would I like the “one owner” model at MVFC? It depends.

        If the options were:
        a) no MVFC or
        b) MVFC with one owner

        I’ll take option (b) every day.

        PS: I’m flattered that you think I’m the most passionate football fan. But, I don’t think my football passion comes remotely close close to the ultras – fanatical supporters – all over the world: from Japan to Egypt; from Sweden to Greece, from UK to Russia; etc. etc. You need to go to a FIFA WC to fully appreciate the level of football fanaticism around the globe.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 23rd 2012 @ 5:07pm
          stam said | February 23rd 2012 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          Im flattered there was no dig at me as im a heart supporter!
          Being from the mornington peninsula its hardly a hotbed for football ultras…..

  • February 23rd 2012 @ 1:32pm
    Steve M said | February 23rd 2012 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

    I think that Clive is a cunning fellow. It would be surprising if this affair, combined with the result against the Mariners and the new coach didn’t lift the number of people going to GCU games. I reckon that they will get a near record crowd this weekend.

    Clive’s presence in the dressing room, his interviews and statements since this all blew up, suggests to me that the man is keener than ever on producing for football. I can hardly wait for the next Roar vs Gold Coast game.

    If the owners are putting a lot of money into the A-League they deserve some say in how it is run. If it is a success, great, if there are issues, they have no one else to blame.

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