FFA terminates League license of Gold Coast owner

Mining magnate Clive Palmer plans to challenge the termination
of Gold Coast United’s A-League license in court and is calling for
a federal government investigation into the administration of
football in Australia.

Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy announced in a
hastily convened news conference in Sydney on Wednesday that Palmer
had been notified that his license for Gold Coast United had been
terminated due to serious breaches of the club participation
agreement.

Lowy said FFA had been ”left with no alternative” due to
Palmer’s ”flagrant disregard” for the A-League regulations.

”We can’t let anybody thumb their noses at us saying ‘We’re
going to do what we want to do but I want to stay,”’ he said.

A loud and strident critic of the administration of the 10-team
domestic league, Palmer responded predictably by confirming he’d
challenge the ruling in court.

”Gold Coast United has been denied natural justice and we are
prepared to go to the highest court in the country to challenge
this ludicrous decision,” Palmer said in a statement. ”We have no
intention of deserting our players and supporters.”

Palmer was quoted in a Brisbane newspaper earlier this month as
describing the team as insignificant, the competition as a joke and
rating rugby league as a better game, drawing the ire of football
fans across the country.

The billionaire businessman later said his comments on football
were taking out of context, but didn’t back away from his criticism
of the A-League and its administration. He added to that Wednesday
by claiming that Lowy, although he was an ”institution” in
Australian football, ”The sport should not be run by dictators
like him.”

Lowy had earlier outlined three recent breaches by Gold Coast
United of the club participation agreement as being: a conscious
and deliberate contravention of FFA policies and procedures;
deliberate defiance of a direction that was given by FFA; and
repeated public statements … that bring the A-League, FFA and the
game of football into disrepute and are prejudicial to the
interests of FFA, the A-League and the game of football in
Australia.

On the weekend, Gold Coast United refused to remove unsanctioned
”Freedom of Speech” logos on its stadium and jerseys – placed
over sponsor signage – during a match despite warnings from the
A-League that it contravened regulations. The club announced after
the match that it would continue to use the logos.

”This behavior came on top of public comments that displayed a
total lack of respect for football and the millions of Australians
who love the game,” Lowy said. ”Such disrespectful behavior, a
flagrant disregard for the rules and a stated intent to continue
breaking the rules made for an intolerable situation.

”As custodians of the game, we had to act to protect the
integrity of the A-League on behalf of the other nine clubs,
players, coaches and most importantly, the fans.”

Lowy said the FFA was examining ways of having a Gold Coast team
contest the last four matches of the regular season, but conceded
Sunday’s away match at Wellington Phoenix may have to be
postponed.

”The major priority at the moment is completing the end of the
season for the sake of the players and the sake of the opposing
teams as well,” A-League chief Lyall Gorman said.

The league wants to avoid the scenario of having Gold Coast
withdraw from remaining matches with opposing teams awarded points
by default.

”We’ve got a very tight competition at the moment and obviously
competition points are very relevant,” Gorman said. ”You want to
see that achieved in a competition full of integrity and not
through forfeits and those sort of arrangements.”

Palmer has long been a critic of the sport’s administrators and
caused a stir in 2009 when he capped the crowd attendance at
matches to 5,000 fans to save stadium costs. He later withdrew the
cap, but United has struggled to attract large crowds despite
finishing third and fourth in the two seasons after joining the
league in 2009.

Last week, Palmer fired Miron Bleiberg after news reports were
published saying the club’s foundation coach had quit after he was
suspended.

Bleiberg’s dismissal came only a day after Palmer’s
controversial quotes on the league were reported in the Sunday
Mail.

Palmer is now urging the federal government to investigate the
running of the game in Australia.

”The FFA is heavily subsidized by government yet its executives
are some of the highest-paid people in Australian sport,” Palmer
said. ”The government should be asking serious questions about the
operations of the FFA.”