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Opinion

A look back at Adelaide United's mysterious Dutch era

(Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
4th February, 2022
5

It was just under four years ago when Adelaide United was bought by a Dutch consortium headed by Piet van der Pol. It was a change being embraced by Reds fans with an expectancy on investment within the football department and financial security.

Within a few weeks of being owned by the Dutch owners, the club announced it was discounting tickets and a boost on the field with players after a Round 25 game against Wellington Phoenix. The results spoke for themselves, with the Reds having their highest attendance at Coopers Stadium that season.

It felt like a breath of fresh air. Fans were believing again. Fast forward almost four years later, the fans have been frustrated by the spending of the owners and have been frustrated by the question of Who are the owners?

When the Dutch consortium took over, fans saw it as chance for spending to improve the football department. While the club on the pitch has performed admirably, there has not been much spending on the squad as what was once touted.

The majority of the signings over the time have been free or scholarship signings. This is something that is not uncommon with other A-League clubs. However, the Reds have not had one player listed on the marquee list. The exception was Baba Diawara, who was brought in by the previous owners.

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Bobô, Miloš Ninkovic, and Adam Le Fondre are all players who have been on Sydney FC’s marquee list in the past six years and were major players in the Sky Blues’ success over the past six years. Having a marquee player could have easily been the difference from the Reds making the grand final and falling short in the semi-final.

It was stated that the Dutch owners were looking to improve performance through their existing network in sports with a focus on international cooperation. In my view, the import players the Reds have brought in over the duration of the ownership have been lacklustre.

While COVID-19 could have impacted potential imports, other clubs have still managed to bring in decent foreign players. Besides Michael Jakobsen, who has been a very good defensive player for the club, former players such as Ken Ilso, Mirko Boland and Jordy Thomassen never lived up to expectations. Whether the Spanish trio of Juande, Javi Lopez and the return of Isaias brings success to the Reds is yet to be seen but does look somewhat promising.

(Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

The shining light in the owner’s investment on players is the club purchasing Riley McGree back from Club Brugge for a fee of just over $250,000. This has been a financial revelation for Adelaide United, with the club selling him for a little over $800,000, plus they have supposedly earned a fair bit in add-on clauses after his move to Middlesbrough.

Besides McGree, though, the club has never really spent money to bring in that big name foreign player that fans have been crying out for. The Reds’ owners’ refusal to open the funds have frustrated fans greatly.

The Dutch consortium were looking to integrate the Reds into a global football family. To my knowledge, nothing of note has come from this supposed ‘global football family’.

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The only major thing that shows that the Reds were part of a global football family is Yongbin Chen. Who is this, you are likely asking? Chen was signed in 2019 from sister club Qingdao Red Lions. Besides three appearances for the youth side and a cameo appearance as a linesman for the Reds youth team reserves side (no, this is not a joke), this is all he brought to the club.

Van Der Pol stated that Chen would attract the Chinese media and would give the club a more of a presence in Asia, however, this never come to be. This global football family has been one which the Reds have never truly been a part of and is one that seems like a wasted opportunity from a player development and promotion viewpoint.

The one thing I am proud of this club about is how the club has gone back to its South Australian roots and respected its club heritage. The club brought back South Australians and inaugural club players Carl Veart and Ross Aloisi in coaching roles, and club legends Bruce Djite and Eugene Galekovic in administration and coaching roles respectively.

The club’s going back to its roots, and it has been something fans have appreciated. How much of this was the Dutch consortium’s decisions or the decisions made by people such as CEO Nathan Kosmina could be questioned. But it’s one aspect over the Dutch consortium’s duration which in my view can be seen as a positive.

The Dutch consortium’s duration as owners was one which started with optimism, and hope. Over time this has turned into fan frustration with cries for the owners to open their wallets.

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There is no doubt the club has had a South Australian flavour over the duration of the ownership. However, the potential of expanding the club and joining a football family has been a disappointment.

For the fans’ sake, let’s hope the new owners are willing to invest more in the football department and the fans see some big-name imports and that elusive second A-League Men title.

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