Tinkler blows up in FFA’s face

Vince Rugari Columnist

By Vince Rugari, Vince Rugari is a Roar Expert

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    As far as timing goes, this was impeccable. Nathan Tinkler waited until precisely the right moment to drop the latest bombshell on a besieged Football Federation Australia.

    This drama was meant to be over last week, when Gold Coast were cut for Western Sydney.

    The problem club was kicked out, the golden goose was in. Done and dusted, let’s have a few drinks at the Johnny Warren Medal count and then start planning ahead, right? Wrong.

    Tinkler caught the FFA with their pants down when he pulled his funding of the Newcastle Jets.

    While the news felt like a bolt out of the blue, the reality is it has been on the cards for some time. Rumours continue to circulate that Perth Glory’s Tony Sage will be the next chairman to push the red button.

    Nobody except for those right in the thick of the drama are privy to the full details of what has happened, but it appears that Tinkler was genuinely outfoxed in the case of the mysterious license fee.

    The cash-strapped federation squeezed as much money as they could out of him back in 2010, and he obliged. Obviously, having done his homework (we can only assume), he thought $5 million was fair enough. It was profiteering from FFA and they got away with it.

    Tinkler went ahead and took a club that was struggling under its former owner, Con Constantine, and turned them into one of the success stories of this A-League season. Happy days, until Clive Palmer flapped his gums and told him that he’d been ripped off.

    That – combined with the Jason Culina affair, the frustrations of an unsustainable business model and a variety of other issues – was the straw that broke the coal-mining camel’s back.

    The FFA should have known it was playing with fire – that if a guy like Tinkler ever found out that he paid far more for his club than any of the other A-League owners, then it was going to be on like Donkey Kong.

    And so it is. To say that this is just a Nathan Tinkler problem – that he’s another hot-headed mining baron in the mould of Palmer, who never really had the best interests of the game at heart and threw his toys out of the pram when things didn’t go his way – is to overlook the issue.

    FFA have made some incredible strides forward this year. All the important metrics – crowds, ratings, memberships, even the standard of play – are up.

    Ben Buckley deserves credit for that, as does Frank Lowy, who has done wonderful things for the game in his time as chairman. Nobody should ever forget that, especially given where football used to be.

    But all the goodwill they’ve built up has gone. Their credibility in the eyes of the average punter has taken a massive hit.

    Buckley claims that the Hunter Sports Group hasn’t a leg to stand on, and that they must continue to pour money into the Jets until 2020 as per their contract.

    Whether or not he is right, does the FFA really want another unwilling investor? Isn’t the whole ‘Freedom of Speech’ saga still fresh in the mind?

    Tinkler, and the other owners, demand change. Despite the formation of a steering committee that will represent their interests and give them a ‘say’ in the running of the game – according to the federation – they want a seat in the FFA boardroom, and that does not look like happening on the current regime’s watch.

    Who can deny them this when it costs them a sum total of $27 million every year to keep the competition afloat? The A-League can’t work without them, so their grievances must be heard.

    They join a growing list of football figures to accuse the FFA of a lack of transparency, and pure weight of numbers suggests that they can’t all be angry axe-grinders.

    The most shameful part of all of this is that just days after Gold Coast United were abandoned, it looks like more innocent parties are about to have their lives turned upside down.

    Players, staff and supporters – the triumvirate that is the essence of the game – have become the unwitting pawns in a billionaires’ game of brinkmanship.

    Nobody involved in this can escape blame, but worse still, nobody can say for sure where football will go from here.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 6:22pm
      The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

      This story is getting a big run on ABC’s PM program. Buckley is insisting that Tinkler cannot walk away from a rock solid contract, but as many have already said, how can you force someone to come to the party? to be a willing and energetic participant in the competition?

      • April 10th 2012 @ 8:55pm
        Jack Russell said | April 10th 2012 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

        They’ve also got to be careful that they don’t alienate any potential owners as well. If they start demonising Tinkler simply because he doesn’t want to throw many more millions down the drain, then who in their right mind would want to replace him? Why would you kick in millions of your own money only to be treated like that?

    • April 10th 2012 @ 7:00pm
      Mick Wilson said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

      Mr Tinkler can get out of this by wearing Freedom of Speech shirts next year and saying he prefers rugby league. If they then dont chuck him out Mr Palmer can sue them for discrimination. FFA really dont have a leg to stand on.
      We all want fooball to do well and I think Mr Tinker and Mr Palmer do as well. I think the problem is one of Governace in the FFA which is trying to behave as a conventional public company. Its not, its an organisation that operates like a business but is subsidised with tax payers money. Such organisations need different Governance and if they has stuck to the sort of Governace that exists in CSIRO or the Universities which are these sort of organisation, it would not have so many unhappy investors and so many frustrated supporters. Dont blame the FFA staff, not withstanding the public relations fiasco, they operate under the conditions dictated to by the Board. Probably if the terms of reference the FFA operate were changed things could be fixed before its too late.
      Hopefully Mr Palmers public inquiry might bring this about.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 7:54pm
        Qantas supports Australian Football said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

        “The Freedom of speech campaign” used by Clive Palmer—I was thinking the same thing. What will happen if Tinkler will adopt the same ploy? Maybe this will teach the FFA and especially Frank Lowy he falls well short of being Football’s God Father.. Time for Frank to resign he has done too much damage if what Troy Palmer says is true that the other owners were against the idea of the FFA funding the West Sydney bid into the HAL..

    • April 10th 2012 @ 7:04pm
      Paul said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:04pm | ! Report

      Time to rethink the structure of the A-League. The Crawford report did suggest lowering the salary cap to improve the financial situation of the competition.

      Having a largely youth-based competition wouldn’t dissuade me from turning up to games, and would serve the interests of the national team well.

      Whatever happens, relying on billionaires to bankroll clubs is now appearing to be foolhardy. The AFL learnt with Sydney and Brisbane and has resisted this. Of course, the AFL doesn’t have national teams to fund on campaigns around Asia and the world, so this is a sticky wicket for FFA.

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2012 @ 7:12pm
        The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

        The predominantly youth league approach is starting to look like the way ahead. As you say, it serves the national interests by allowing more youngsters to play senior level football, plus youngsters come cheap and they’re full of ambition to play at a higher level.

        You don’t even need a salary cap. Maximum list of 23 players, and 15 of them must be U21 at the very start of the season. Fixed basic wage for all U18 players.

        • April 11th 2012 @ 8:02am
          mikeylives said | April 11th 2012 @ 8:02am | ! Report

          Where do a third of the team go each year when they turn 21?

          • Roar Guru

            April 11th 2012 @ 9:57am
            The Cattery said | April 11th 2012 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            They either find contracts in the same club, elsewhere in Australia, or try their luck overseas.

            If you listened carefully to Bozza’s point yesterday on Fox FC, he made the point that we can’t continue with a minimum salary cap, that clubs need to find their natural fit in terms of finances, and this is one approach that helps do that.

            Those clubs that can afford it can fill their 8 open age positions with expensive players, but everyone is able to compete because the other 15 positions are U21 players on low wages. It’s a financial model that can work, plus, the league is forced to develop young talent and play them in senior competition.

            Also, it would be wrong to say a third of the team would be turning 22 each year.

            You would have 15 players spread across the ages of 17 to 21, or roughly 3 in each year, so around 3 of 23 players would be turning 22 each year, that’s about 1/8th of your team.

            It all comes down to list management, you make sure your best 21 year olds are locked in with longer contracts, the 50/50 ones, you work it out when it’s time to finalise your list, professional football is a tough business.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 7:10pm
      apaway said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

      Nathan Tinkler paid an amount for an existing club with players, coaches, stadium, officials, infrastructure, equipment and employees. That is worth a lot more than a licence where a franchise starts from scratch. I wouldn’t have thought that was too difficult a concept to grasp.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 8:06pm
        Qantas supports Australian Football said | April 10th 2012 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

        The trouble is with your statement the FFA doesn’t own the Stadium, coaches or the players.. And if what you say has some credence what did the FFA payout to Con Constantine who put all that together for them out of his own funds before they revoked his licence? I bet not a cent..

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 7:14pm
      The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

      Kevin Airs reckons that no one from the Jets at the awards night, players told not to go – very vindictive action, right up there with the very worst that Clive ever did.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 7:26pm
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

      From where I sit the timing of the announcement appears malicious.

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