Gold Coast, Australia, Feb 29: 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.”