When the Human League opened their 1981 hit Love Action with the following lyrics they could so easily have been singing about supporting a football team:
When you’re in love
You know you’re in love
No matter what you try to do
You might as well resign yourself
To what you’re going through
If you’re a hard man or if you’re a child
It still might get to you
Fans of Perth Glory undoubtedly have the love, but now they want action.
Credit must be given to Perth Glory owner Tony Sage – when it has come to action he has put his money where his mouth is.
He brought to Perth English Premier League clubs Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers and has now arranged for Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic to play the Glory; although one has to say that attracting such sides to Australia should surely befall the FFA.
He signed Robbie Fowler last season, which achieved its goal off the pitch if not on it, with memberships at an all time high. The only down side will be that many will feel that they were conned last season with the former Liverpool star well past his use-by-date, and his moments of magic few and far between.
Probably his greatest achievement thus far was to sign the Hyundai A league’s most successful goal scorer, Shane Smeltz. This man has all the credentials, he has played at this level and he has scored goals at this level, now all he has to do is score for Perth – and if he does, he will sit up there with the likes of Damian Mori and Bobby Despotovski, who are to Perth Glory what Shearer, Macdonald and Milburn are to Newcastle United.
The problem is that for all the good that Tony Sage does he so often undoes that work opening his mouth rather than his wallet.
Football fans the world over do not care one iota about the owner of their club and rarely do they want to hear from them. They want to hear from the coach and the players and only the owner when he brings in a new Manager after results have not eventuated.
Many Glory fans have become sick and tired of Mr Sage’s regular threats to withdraw his money if he doesn’t get more fans through the gate, or if the FFA doesn’t give him what he wants. This posturing back-fired last season when some fans who had regularly attended games – despite the dreadful football being played – joined the many absentees after such a threat.
Imagine the difference if he had acknowledged their loyal support.
Many will say he has every right to say what he wants because he is putting his money into the club; a club that is sucking it up and from a football perspective gives him little in return. Perth Glory has given Mr Sage a profile he never had prior to his ownership of the club, so one would assume he would believe he has had a return on his investment away from football, which he deserves.
A key lesson he must learn however is that the biggest turn off for any fan is to see their club being used for purposes other than football. Fans feel an ownership to the clubs that they support. They feel that by shelling out their hard earned wages each week to support their team win, lose or draw, they have an investment in that club and the team on the park. It may not be an investment close to that of Mr Sage and Mr Palmer, but it is relative.
Neither do the players want to be used for purposes that don’t relate to their day to day trade, playing football; although some have defied that belief in order to obtain better or new deals at the club.
Mr Sage is not a true football fan, and this is where the problem lies for him. He wants to be one, he wants to be loved by the fans, and he wants the club to be successful, so that love will be everlasting. However it is not that easy, just as a woman wants to hear the words ‘I love you,’ she can tell when they are simply being uttered to make her happy, rather than being really heartfelt. It is the same with football.
Just as a pushy suitor is a major turn-off, so too is a pushy owner, and the love affair soon starts to turn sour.
Mr Sage has splashed the cash and delivered plenty in terms of big name teams and big name players, but he has been unable to deliver the one thing the fans crave most, success. If he and his team fails again this year, and the fans have to suffer his sporadic outbursts berating them and the team, the current love affair could well end in divorce come the season’s end, as the fans search for reasons for failure, and will start to look beyond the pitch.