Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The A-league will move forward

By Paul Frederickson

The nail is not yet in the Gold Coast United coffin but the casket has been ordered by the FFA. Whilst the past few months have seen the tensions between Clive Palmer and the FFA simmer the last week has seen them explode. This has culminated in the FFA revoking Mr Palmer's Gold Coast United's football licence. This does not bode well for the future of a national football team on the Gold Coast but this is not the death knell of the A-League.
There is a minority of people on social network forums stating that the latest debacle is the beginning of the end for the A-League. Below is a sample of this line of thought, "Unfortunately this is the start of the end for Football in Australia. And its clear that this was Palmers intentions all along."
Both the AFL and NRL have lost teams in the history of their competition, teams have merged and more teams will meet a similar fate in years to come. The nature of a ultra-competitive sporting market means that the survival of the fittest must be adhered to. If teams cannot garner support and are losing money it cannot always be the fault of the game's administrators, the franchise themselves must take most of the blame for the way they have run their club.

It is not the end of the A-League, but this is another major warning for the FFA as it is very unlikely that Mr Palmer will work away from this mess quietly, court cases must surely await. This could be a costly and negative lesson for the FFA to use both corporate governance and having the right people at the helm of our clubs. Money, and the ability to pay for a licence, should not be the only determining factor in the granting of an A-League licence.
Mr Palmer has stated that he has put $18 million dollars into the Gold Coast club. That is a significant figure regardless of his wealth reserves but he should have completed his research and found that it is very rare that football clubs anywhere in the world are profitable. Investing money does not guarantee success, but investing time in the local community is the most solid foundation that any club can make for a long-term future. Both the Gold Coast Titans and Suns made this a priority in the years preceding their first competitive games. Gold Coast United on the other hand invested in cliched rhetoric and bravado culminating in numerous first year declarations of unfettered success.

The FFA cannot afford to support teams financially but more importantly it cannot afford to be undermined by a key stakeholder, in particular a disgruntled and disrupted owner. Clive Palmer and Ben Buckley may have traded blows but it took the true football lover and veteran of boardroom tussles, Frank Lowy to land the knockout blow, he took back the Gold Coast's A-League licence.
The FFA are far from blameless in this fiasco, they have shown a distinct lack of corporate governance in the awarding of licences and maintenance of licensee obligations. Some of the comments that Clive Palmer made on SBS television's World Game program are extremely valid, no more valid point than owners should have more say about the way their businesses are run.

What may have been forgotten in this tangled mess is that many people will be hurting tonight. Fans face the real fear that their club is forever lost, players will scramble for contracts and dedicated staff may no longer have employment. No one wins from this mess, but the A-League will move on. Australian football cannot afford for it not to.