Palmer’s heavy nova

Chris Hyde/Getty Images

If you visit Clive Palmer’s website, the first sentence that hits you states: “For over 20 years Mineralogy has been engaged in the exploration and development of mineral resources.” Exploration, development, resources: key words. All apply to building a business from the bottom up not top down.

The same principles apply to running a football club. You must do your market research, must engage with the grassroots and must utilise the available resources to bring fans through the turnstiles.

Palmer is a larger-than-life character, literally. Bigger is better. He builds, he sustains, he fights and most of all, he wins.

A capitalist likes to boast about “what” they have built, “how” they have built it but rarely, “why” they have built it. Palmer is bullish about his wealth. One could look at his physical appearance and conclude that a life of excess is not lost on the minerals giant. An entrepreneur, he is. A football-man, he is not.

There are a number of issues in Australian football bothering Palmer. Some are valid. Some are true. Some are just downright fantasy. Although, the bigger picture, the game, seems to be lost on him. In his narcissistic mind, he feels he is doing the game a favour by attempting to take control away from autocratic-conservative, fellow billionaire and Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chairman, Frank Lowy.

So, what’s Palmer, a civil libertarian? Hardly. What was the “Freedom of Speech” protest all about?

His grandiose plan for an independent association with greater input by club owners has some merit but like a retrenched employee, he wants to startup a rival company and seek revenge out of spite. This never works. It’s a fool’s errand because the motive is negative and shallow. Football Australia with a, “We Kick Harder” slogan must be a joke, right? We don’t “kick” in football, we “shoot” for a start.

Palmer showed his depth when making disparaging remarks about football. He claims calling football a “hopeless game” was taken out of context; that he was referring to the game’s administration. Nice try. One look at Palmer’s sporting achievements on his CV will tell you which football code he prefers.

What does a schoolyard bully do when someone finally stands up to him? He thinks of every possible excuse to blame someone else for his inability to socialise. A bully will never admit to being the instigator. Palmer will only play if he’s the captain, the leader, the focus of attention.

There are two aspects to this debacle that bother me more than any other: Gold Coast United’s inability to generate a crowd and Palmer’s comfort with throwing the game into flux.

It is true that FFA gave Palmer the Gold Coast United A-League licence with little guidance on how to govern a football club. It was a case of: here are the keys to the shop, now go make budget. FFA wanted to increase the number of teams in the league. Fine. Palmer had the money, was prepared to invest it, so they gave him the licence. Is that good governance? It would appear not.

What many of us are questioning is the transparency of it all. Why is everything done by FFA a secret?

What demographic research, market segmentation and feasibility studies did FFA do on the Gold Coast before handing Palmer the licence? They may have done, we don’t know. All evidence points to a poor job at best.

Although, Palmer should not use that as an excuse. As a businessman of quite some fame and clout in the country, and indeed the world, he should have done his own research. For a minerals magnate so connected, would it have taken much for him to pick up the phone and call say, Roman Abramovich? To contact a chairman of a Premier League club in England and say, “G’day, this is Clive Palmer, how do I run a football club?”

The bottom line, which is what he and the FFA Chairman demand in board meetings, is accountability. Not blame. Accountability.

Lowy and Buckley must be accountable for their part in the governance and decision-making around the Gold Coast United licence. Palmer must be accountable for his own failure to engage the fans and the grassroots community. What message does it send to the locals when you cap the crowd attendance? No more than 5,000 fans were allowed to watch the team play. Shame on him.

What’s particularly disappointing, no, downright upsetting, is how Australian football has been portrayed in the media as a basket case yet again. After spending years building FFA, one cancerous owner decides he has the right to throw the hard work of many people out the window by starting a civil war.

The best option would be for FFA to get its house in order. For a succession plan to be on the record; for Lowy to step aside and give the club owners more autonomy, a greater voice in how to increase revenue for their clubs and input into the A-League’s administration. They are stakeholders, are they not?

Does anyone remember what the old Australian Soccer Federation looked like; how it was beholden to the National Soccer League clubs and their acts of self-interest?

Does anyone remember what happened in rugby league when a similarly egocentric entrepreneur, Rupert Murdoch, decided to start a breakaway, “Super League” competition?

Lowy should know how Australian “football politics” works. He’s been both a success and failure in the game, but we don’t hear much about the latter these days, do we?

Palmer needs to stop making nonsensical statements. Suggesting Buckley isn’t fit to run football because he’s an AFL-man is a legitimate question, but what does that make Palmer?

Too many pots, too many kettles. It’s all way too black.

Please, can we get back to the football? I believe there’s an A-League Final Series to be played very soon.

Football is about the players, coaches and most of all, the fans. As fans, we’re sick of all this infighting.

This season’s ad has a very clear message: “We are football.”

“Here, we’re all equal.” Aren’t we?


22 Responses to Palmer’s heavy nova

  1. Daniel says:

    Considering our Aussie football (political) history, I try not to take it for granted that we have our own professional league to follow.
    I remember when our prime minister at the time, John Howard, called on Frank Lowy to get involved in our game again. It has been exciting but In the last 7 years I have grown increasingly frustrated at a number of things, no less than the fact there is no team in south West Sydney to support. I grew up with such a rich tapestry of football to watch and although I always enjoyed the games and atmosphere, and I was never made to feel unwelcome or as an outsider, I still never had my own team to support. One that represents together, the real west of Sydney.
    Clive Palmer came on the scene at Gold Coast and promised the world! Undefeated this, private jet that! I can understand the attraction Ben Buckley and the FFA had having a billionaire wanting to run an A-League club.
    What worries me is that the issues Clive Palmer has raised so loudly and publicly after losing his licence are obviously issues that the other owners and credible parts of our football family have been bringing up for years. Why is it that people like Con Consantine and Nick Tana etc have never been able to have such an impact in getting their message across? Is it because Palmer doesn’t care for our games integrity or care about the worst case scenario these disruptions can cause to the game in oz or his own club?
    As much as I would like to see issues such as team expansion, financial transparency, FFA senior exec wages, failed world cup bid etc addressed, do we really want a loose cannon like Palmer with his constant self contradictions, smug opinions, more than likely ulterior motives and obvious passion-less feelings for the game to be steering the ship in the right direction? Archie Fraser appears to me to have the right intentions and a genuine intent to improve the game. And even though Palmer claims to be only a member of “Football Australia” and not on the board, he obviously has the ultimate say and influence. He can take his ball and go home whenever he wants and when it suits him.
    There are issues to address and we need to find a way to do it ourselves, without selling our souls to the devil.
    I tell you now if Clive Palmer tried to run a Western Sydney team the way he ran Gold Coast, he would have been “Kicked Harder” than he has ever been before. I will be gutted if FFA try to get a west Sydney team up and running for next season without seriously engaging the still running former NSL clubs and their supporters, all Football NSW clubs and participants. Ive been heavily involved in football community for over 25 years and not once has A-League, FFA or any potential West Sydney bid ever come across my way for an opinion or input.
    So is Football Australia’s self proclaimed watch dog role a credible body? Can they help to engage the football family and give the people a voice to the FFA? I would like to think so but I have not seen enough evidence at this stage exactly what they are about. And at this point, with Palmer involved,I would sway more towards the NO side.

  2. Ross says:

    There’s some good and not-so-good things in this post, in my view.

    I don’t think it’s necessary or relevant to comment on how he looks or to make conclusions about why he is overweight unless you’re his medical doctor.

    Whether he likes the sport or not, and I believe he was taken out of context, is hardly relevant when you’ve had an AFL man running the sport for more than 5 years who has achieved nothing. I repeat. He has achieved nothing. All of FFA’s achievements were in the John O’Neill era who was from Rugby. Surely that must say something to you and others? It obviously doesn’t to Frank Lowy. A good administrator will have achievements in one year let alone 5 years and counting to 6. Buckley is just not a good administrator.

    Who has Palmer bullied, and what is the relevance of this?

    I don’t agree that Palmer has thrown the game into flux. It was already there. Not sure where you get your news from or who you talk to, or maybe you believe the very very rubbery figures FFA throws around about crowds etc. Do some research and then do the maths and do let me know where they get 36% from. We’ll never know if they’re telling the truth about TV numbers of memberships as we don’t have any comparative data and they don’t actually give the numbers do they?

    I absolutely agree that Palmer has no credibility because he ran Gold Coast very badly. His big mistake was giving the management of the club to his nephew and not someone with a track record like Archie Fraser who actually lives there.

    But I think the sport, the fans, the players, the other A League clubs, the sleepy and ineffective State Federations ignore Clive Palmer’s message and laugh off his stunts and antics at their peril. I think the man means business and if he’s prepared to put his hand in his pocket to properly fund an independent League, are you really going to say no?

    Frank, who seems to think he can take it with him, must be in a real quandary. So maybe a peace accord is the ultimate outcome with Ben Buckley and his motley and underperforming executive team the deserved victims.

  3. Jeremy Clarke says:

    Though Clive Palmer is as objectional a messenger as Craig Foster in so many ways the issues that he raises within the bombastic rheotoric deserves serious consideration. It is with caustion that one dismisses the ravings of the fool, as has been seen in many a Shakesperean tragedy – which one is forced to admit that football in Australia has fast become.

  4. Andyroo says:

    I think it’s time football folk stop eating their own and get real. The FFA sets some guidelines and rules but that is all. We can’t expect them to magically make a badly run team profitable, that is up to the individual teams.

    Compared to the rest of the world the FFA e
    would be in the top 20% of associations.

  5. Dj says:

    Well said Anthony.

    The question of accountability remains. Two expansion teams have failed in as many years and we’ve seen no changes at the FFA.

    Surely losing a club – or two – is a big enough mistake to warrant change.

    Yet, the same men are planning to introduce another team. Why should fans trust them to do so?

  6. Winsor Dobbin says:

    Sensible anlaysis. The reality is Palmer is a clown, but so are Buckley and many at FFA. Bottom line: Too many dickheads involved – which all comes down to Lowy, his ego and lack of judgement,

  7. Skye McTavish says:

    Great post as per usual, Anthony.
    Particularly like that you don’t pretend that the FFA is faultless; we don’t need cheerleaders in the game, but people willing to work for the improvement of the sport.
    It’s a shame that Palmer’s fight for accountability in football is being lost among his bumbling attacks on our game. His tantrum is embarrassing for football and does very little to convince me that he is the right person to bring about the change that may be needed. While some serious questions need to be asked of the FFA, this is not the way to do it.
    Sadly, the victim here is not Palmer (as he would have people believe) but the Gold Coast United staff, players and fans.

  8. Mr Soccer says:

    Not a bad perspective. Bottom line is, the FFA does whatever the F they want. They have NO accountability, no natural justice system for disgruntled owners, nothing! The FFA has, and always will be a shambles under Lowy. Lowy was a shambles back in the NSL with Sydney City Hakoah. Remember him killing his team after what? 1 game of the season or something?

    Been a football fan all my life, been professionally involved with football off the pitch since 1999, I have never and never will support the FFA unless major changes are made.

    Re; the slogan “We are football”? What a load of crock! That only applies to the delusioned FFA/A-League lovers, how about all the thousands of other football lovers who were left out to die? They are not good enough? Why not make EVERYONE football? Why not bring back old football and intermix it with new football? But it’s good enough for Indonesian ethics to come in to the A-League, buy Brisbane Roar for the benefit of Indonesia? When all the previous old football fans and owners wanted to do is nurture quality players for Australia! Olyroos have not qualified for the first time in 28 years for the Olympic games. Football in Oz is F’d! It’s been downhill since 2005. Football in this country is at an all time low, EVER! The NSL was run better then this piece of shit federation we have now.

    Go Clive! Rip this inept FFA to shreads! If you don’t win, at least you had the balls and money to fire the first shot! It’s all down hill from now! Good riddance Lowy, Buckly, Lyall, and good riddance FFA.

  9. Nick Stoll says:

    Another week, another fuck-up in Australian football.

    There are serious questions as to where the future of the game lies.
    This, just being one in a series of debacles, makes clear that it is not in the hands of Frank Lowy, Ben Buckley or Clive Palmer.

    In terms of the way football clubs are run/owned, I believe the best model is in the Bundesliga which sees 51% of the club owned by fans/members. There should not be an ‘owner’ of a club, it’s the fans who own it. Had this been done on the Gold Coast maybe fan engagement and crowds wouldn’t have been such an issue. Also, I assume most millionaires and billionaires that were looking at investing in the game will be turned off by the experiences of Palmer, Tony Sage and Nathan Tinkler.

    I also like the idea of having the fans vote in those who run the club, as what happens at the two biggest and most successful clubs in the world – Real Madrid and Barcelona. Given the numbers of players, fans, coaches and other stakeholders in the game that live in Western Sydney this should be seriously considered when it comes to giving that region an A-League club. – This link shows the way Barca’s owners operate – all 180,000 of them. And how those elected members of the board and executive work in order to turn the club into what it is today.

    When will we have a club that we consider ‘more than a club’?

  10. A great read, and a very nice take on the events.

    This sums it up for me though:

    “His grandiose plan for an independent association with greater input by club owners has some merit but like a retrenched employee, he wants to startup a rival company and seek revenge out of spite. This never works. It’s a fool’s errand because the motive is negative and shallow.”

    The fact is, accountability and transparency in the FFA are worth fighting for, and at it’s purest is a noble cause. It is a cause corrupted however, when it is lead by someone like Palmer.

    He might say he has the game’s best interests at heart, but unfortunately for Clive, actions speak louder than words. Palmer’s complete failure in running Gold Coast United in almost every aspect outside of monetary investment is demonstrative of someone who knows little about the fans, and little about the game he supposedly wants to save.

    This is personal, and few people in Australia are as bitter as Palmer. That, combined with his vast wealth makes Palmer a dangerous character, and unless his thirst for revenge can be controlled and directed by those around him, it will only spell trouble for the game in Australia.

  11. Ted says:

    Good article, sure, but not that much different than most articles I’ve read via the net on this schemozzle.

    Much condemnation of the fat man but if we all stop with our collective wank and consider some of the finer points that have come out of his mouth over the last week or so (and consider them from a neutral p.o.v. rather than armchair bias) he has raised many points that are quite valid. Points that deserve scrutiny and follow up. Not the least of which is the lack of transparency by FFA, those obscene salaries enjoyed by FFA’s execs, the total lack of club owners input into the running of the A-League. I’m not interested in the what and wherefore re the 46 million bucks for the WC bid. That’s done, lost, and nothing anyone can say or do will get us that money back.

    Over time Palmer will prove to have been a catalyst for quite a few important changes that need to be brought about by the FFA. Other club owners may have publicly distanced themselves from Palmer’s rants but London to a brick they quietly cheer him on from the confines of their own board rooms. And Lowy would be a fool to not know this, accept this and initiate reforms. Even if he makes it appear they’re all his own initiatives to try and save face, recoup some of the benevolent image he has surely lost a huge chunk of over the last couple of weeks and reestablish the FFA as the fine and professional administration we all would like it to be.

    Pot kettles black. That starts with all of us, the fans and the media and the commentators and everyone else who feels the need to make his feelings known on the internet about this whole sorry affair.

  12. Adam says:

    Well written Anthony. Shows Palmer to be what he really is; a walking, talking contradiction.
    It is appropriately balanced in its assessment of the FFA and the processes behind expansion.

  13. Kate says:

    Thank you Anthony for capturing the messy complexity in this situation! Whilst I’ve been so sad about it all this week, seeing young commentators analyse and respond like this gives me real hope. Football is maturing within the mainstream now; here we see the vision and capability to weather such storms and grow our beautiful game with intelligence and respect for both traditions and contemporary realities.

  14. nathan says:

    ” Football Australia with a, “We Kick Harder” slogan must be a joke, right? We don’t “kick” in football, we “shoot” for a start. ”

    This sentence doesn’t really make sense, the ball is kicked constantly in football. Every pass that is done uses a kicking action, even when a shot on goal is taken it is still a kick of the ball.

    • mark 675 says:

      nathan we ‘pass’ or ‘shoot not kick if you don’t know the difference then you don’t understand the game.

      • Ted says:

        Semantics. We do kick the ball, we also pass, shoot, head. When a goalie shoots the ball into the field to restart the game what do we call it? That’s right. A goal kick, not a goal shoot. Seems to me, Mark, it’s you who doesn’t know the game.

  15. Michael Lynch says:

    Decent summary pulling the strands of the week together. Clive had some valid points, but has undermined his legitimacy by his inability to run a club and the way he has prosecuted his campaign over the past two weeks.

  16. Steve Horvat says:

    Great work Anthony. To quote the big man Meat Loaf; ‘You took the words right out of my mouth’
    Saves me writing a piece about this disgraceful episode of our game! Keep up the great work.

  17. thehardsword says:

    Well written, and unlike many articles this week showed both sides of the story. In what has been a very challenging week for out game, there will hopefully be some positives to come out of this. The game will be better when Buckley, Palmer & Lowy stop using the game as an ego tool and look after what is important about the game; the Fans

  18. Well written article about the parasite Palmer. It’s like any business you got to do the research and work to make it successful, at the same time trying to run a football club here is not the best way to make profit,

    Agreed there needs to be some reform with the FFA, but Palmer doesn’t give a toss about football in Australial

  19. Nick says:

    Good balanced article. It’s becoming quite a ritual to leave the daily rag to the wife to read and fire up the laptop instead.

    On Palmer, I strongly agree with parts of his mandate but it’s overwhelmingly obvious he’s got an axe to grind and the motivating factor was a vendetta against FFA, Lowy, Buckley and co. I really don’t think he gives a toss about reforming the game. Once slayed though, I just hope the football reform message doesn’t follow him down the drain.

  20. Terry says:

    Sensational perspective Anthony. It is exactly what I have been saying for 2 years now. He must go and stay away from our code forever

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