Friday, March 2, 2012

Shocker: Billionaire football club owner is mental

The Australian A-League, a competition set up to minimise infighting and partisanship while maximising club longevity, has again slid inexorably into disarray. And this time, it's one man's madness rather than hyper-optimistic expansion or Kevin Muscat perpetual battle with the red-mist.

The lone figure isn't even Harry Kewell.

Although the league is markedly strengthened from it's nascence, the competition – and the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) – have been rendered impotent and the fall guy of a former owner.

To paraphrase Python, Clive Palmer is an ex-owner.

When the league expanded three seasons ago, the Gold Coast appeared to have the strongest of the two expansion licences. Their locale was growth market, they boasted a solid squad and even a passable coach who pinned the team to “franchise” players Shane Smeltz, Jason Culina and Michael Thwaite. Only three years later, the FFA has revoked the club's licence and the team looks as if it has passed football's Event Horizon.

Who knows why Palmer decided to bid for the initial licence. Why the FFA granted him a team is no secret: his dimensionally-transcendent pocketbook made him irresistible. But Australian mining magnates have an unwavering tendency to the irregular: just ask Lang Hancock, Rose Porteous and Gina Rinehart.

Since obtaining the rights to own Gold Coast United, Palmer has persistently, and even maliciously, undermined his football club with ludicrous management decisions. The last of which, where he personally appointed debutant seventeen year-old Mitch Cooper club captain, cost him his the remaining shreds of his credibility. His rap sheet is stupefying in it's capacity self-destruction and therefore incriminating.  This copy doesn't include slamming football as a sport and an open challenge for FFA Chairman Frank Lowy to pit their respective wealth against each other in court. Football is better off without him.

It's now becoming apparent soccer in Australia can't win. Where in the bunker days of the old NSL it was lack of money that turned fans away, this time it is the expectation of those who do spend. There seems to be no middle ground and it is this which Lowy and offsider Ben Buckley must see as their utmost priority.

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