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Palmer’s Personal Possé

Richard Withers only likes it when Russian billionaires buy clubs

Happier times, not long ago the Gold Coast were rated as the best team in the A-League. Source: Bleacher Report
Happier times, not long ago the Gold Coast were rated as the best team in the A-League. Source: Bleacher Report

Little over a week after calling the A-League a ‘joke’, Queensland’s richest man and owner of Gold Coast United FC, billionaire Clive Palmer, is looking to overhaul the way football operates in Australia.

Chief executive of Football Federation Australia (FFA), Ben Buckley, initially reacted by denouncing Palmer’s criticism and releasing a statement claiming that football fans across Australia would “rightfully condemn the lack of respect inherent in comments made by Clive Palmer”.

Yet Palmer refused to be put in his place by the FFA, launching into a tirade of disparaging remarks, slamming the administration of the A-League by the FFA, its chairman Frank Lowy and breaching a minimum of three articles in the club participation agreement. With his criticism firmly out of hand, the FFA saw no alternative other than to revoke Palmer’s A-League license for his Gold Coast United club.

Upon hearing news of the FFA’s decision, Palmer took to twitter to continue his childish rant, tweeting: “We intend to fight this ludicrous decision by incompetent FFA in the courts. Frank Lowy is an institution who now belongs in an institution.”

It’s hard to see Palmer’s movements in recent days as anything more than an egotistically-charged response to the FFA’s decision to axe Gold Coast United from the competition. While Palmer may have the finances to back a new governing body for the game in Australia, his spell as the chairman and owner of Gold Coast suggests the smaller his involvement, the better. While renowned for having a close working relationship and strong involvement with the Gold Coast club and its players, Palmer has also bluntly admitted that when it comes to football, “I don’t even like the game, I think it’s a hopeless game”.

In retaliation to the FFA’s decision, Palmer has proposed a new rival governing body- ‘Football Australia Pty Ltd’ – and suggested this body could be at the head of a new league.  A mining magnate who has made clear that football is an ‘insignificant’ part of his life, Palmer is hardly the man Australians should turn to when the future of the game in this country remains uncertain.

The outburst tarnishes what has actually, thus far, been a positive year in terms of the development of the game domestically. The league’s acquisition of marquee players Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton has seen discernable spikes in crowd attendances for Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC respectively.  The A-league has this year posted an average crowd of 11,013 per game, rejuvenating the competition somewhat after attracting a dismal average of 8,393 supporters in the 2010-11 season. The coming weeks, however, will determine the impact Palmer’s movements will have on the already tenuous climate of football in Australia. With any luck, the incredible furor ignited by Palmer’s movements will die off as quickly as it has arisen.