The events of the last two years have made surprising stars in the community. One is Bob Katter – his fame and the red hued agrarian socialist party he has formed due to that fame is still my favourite outcome of the 2010 election. The other is miner and prominent LNP supporter, Clive Palmer. Like fellow miners Tony Sage, Nathan Tinkler and Roman Abramovich, he has a hobby – a football team. Gold Coast United has had an unhappy time, however, with tiny attendance records and poor performances through its history. Palmer himself has threatened to stop backing the Gold Coast team and has performed curious actions like restricting the attendance at the club’s Robina Stadium in order to save money.
Now, however, the relationship between Palmer and the ruling body of soccer in Australian, the FFA, has gone down a bizarre path, with Palmer objecting to how football is run by the FFA, the money paid to executives and the wasteful World Cup bid. He also interfered with the running of the Gold Coast club, by appointing a 17 year old as captain, sacking a coach who was less than delighted at that move. Finally, as a bold act of defiance to the FFA, the team wore these shirts – claimed later to be about refugees:
As a result of this action, in addition to others, we have had the head of the FFA, fellow billionaire Frank Lowy declare that the Gold Coast have found themselves stripped of a licence to play. As a result, Palmer wants to head to the courts. However, not without first starting his own new organisation to “oversee” football in Australia – creatively named “Football Australia”. It does make me wonder if, one day he isn’t happy with the Liberal Party, he’d be inclined to start his own party.
Here is part of the press conference held by Palmer to announce the new competition. It was a vintage Palmer appearance, featuring a cheeky, trolling comparison between his new body and the work done by the “excellent” Lowy Institute in political affairs ; reference to his registering of the name with ASIC, the slogan “We Kick Harder” and a couple of mentions of a new logo. The important things. Though, he did bring up one element of Australian soccer that does go shamefully under promoted – women’s soccer. I’m not sure when Palmer became a champion for women’s rights, but there he was today.
It’s a pity, though, he didn’t announce a new competition, replete with new clubs, with names like: Karratha Rineharts, Darwin Woodsides, Adelaide Santos, Sydney Strike Breakers, Western Sydney No Carbon Taxes, Mt Isa Katters, Illawarra Steelers, Nunanwading Nuclear and the Canberra Coalitions. It’s also a pity he didn’t call Frank Lowy or Ben Buckley “chickens” – otherwise, we could have had the headline Chicken Palmer Drama.
The big shame of this incident is that people should be looking at how the FFA is running Australian soccer, especially the salaries of officials, the promotion of the game, the disappearance of the game from free to air TV, as well as poor attendances. I was at an A League game in Sydney recently, which was of pretty high quality, but only with 10,000 fans in attendance – basically only a few more than a recent Giants game in Blacktown. It is a serious issue that needs addressing. Palmer is also right in saying that there should also be a greater spotlight on women’s soccer. As a result, I do suggest this video as a rallying call for Football Australia’s campaign to unite all soccer fans under one banner.
And for mobiles, this one: