So long Clive, we’ll hardly miss you

by Sebastian Hassett on Mar 01, 2012

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SO LONG Clive, we’ll hardly miss you.

What a terrible shame it all had to end like this. It had the potential to be a beautiful friendship, one that could have brought great things to football, and on the flip side, great things to the Gold Coast.

The Glitter Strip isn’t the FFA’s Vietnam but it hasn’t been far off. Not far off at all, actually. The extent of the damage from Clive Palmer’s bombs have been massive. The big man has secured enormous oxygen to vent his grievances and the whole country has been listening.

Officially he’s out, but it could get nasty in court in the coming months and we probably haven’t heard the end of things. Expect a very messy and protracted legal battle to unfold. As for Palmer, he’s as content in the courtroom as he is in the boardroom.

The boast about his ‘‘68-0’’ record speaks volumes about two things: his ability to court controversy and his ability to win. That will scare the FFA and I think it’s a big reason why they’ve waited so long to pull the trigger.

It’s more than two years since senior FFA officials confided to several senior journalists that Palmer was a ‘‘toxic’’ force in the game. He’d been in the competition barely a year and already he was causing problems left, right and centre.

Personally, I wish we’d have found a way to get Clive onside, to have him agitating for the game, not against it. He could have been a powerful ally in all sorts of ways. Instead he became an antagonist intent on causing as much destruction as he could.

Maybe that says something about him but it probably says something about the FFA and how they’ve handled A-League owners, too.

We’ve seen the best and worst of Palmer in the past fortnight. The best is that he cares about his club and his players. The worst is virtually everything else, and the collection of all these
negative reasons is pretty much why he won’t have a role to play in the game going forward.

Unfortunately, when it comes to billionaires, they don’t get rich by giving away money. They don’t like digging into their own pockets without a tangible return. They like control over their interests; control is not what A-League owners are getting right now.

Frank Lowy still has his hands on the wheel and that bugs the club owners badly. The owners feel they have invested money into the game for no return. They are happy to fund the clubs but not as a purely philanthropic exercise. They are businessman; they want a say in how the business of football unfolds in this country. To be fair, the FFA doesn’t give them that chance.

There are lessons to be learned here. Big lessons.

Tony Sage and Nathan Tinkler have started to grumble publicly about their unhappiness and won’t mind rocking the boat a bit more after their mining mate was tipped overboard. A mutiny is the last thing the FFA can afford.

The game’s governing body must now listen to the owners like never before and work hand-in-hand with them to keep them happy. It’s not about bowing to their every need and want. It’s about compromise and getting agreements done. Like I said, these guys are businessman. They negotiate outcomes every single day; this is no different.

It’s a shame that the removal of a club might lead to a potential turning point but it probably had to come to this. Sooner or later, somebody had to draw a line in the same. Well done to the FFA for having the guts to do it themselves. They might get smashed in court but so what? It’ll be worth it. Lowy can afford it.

Hopefully this proves an emboldening moment for the FFA. If they can channel the energy this decision creates - and believe me, the public support on this decision couldn’t be greater - they can use it to get the game back on its feet.

Like a bad relationship, it needed to be ended. This one had dragged for long enough and well done to Whitlam Square for cutting ties.

It’ll be messy and costly but Clive had his chance, hundreds of them. He blew it. Now we need to go forward without him.