Banned In The Land Down Under

It’s not a rare sighting when a player or manager of a sport is banned for a period of time, it’s a bit less common that they are banned from a sport completely. But it’s not every day that you read that the chairman of an entire team has been banned from operating within the sport and the club faces being axed from the said sporting organisation. That is exactly what is happening in Australia. The Football Federation Australia has decided to revoke the license of Gold Coast United owner, Clive Palmer and the club are running the risk of exclusion from the A-League, Australia’s premier division.

Gold Coast's chairman, Clive Palmer (centre)

Gold Coast United are an A-League team located in the coastal city of Gold Coast in the South East of Queensland, Australia. Like a lot of A-League teams, they haven’t been established long, only coming into existence in 2008, and they joined the A-League in time for the 2009-10 season after being rejected by the FFA a year earlier, playing in the 27,400 seater Robina Stadium, now under the name of Skilled Park, also used by the National Rugby League team, Gold Coast Titans.

The team was owned by consortium of 3 unknown businessmen and Clive Palmer, the richest man in Queensland, thought to be worth between A$3-6 billion. Palmer, made his wealth dealing in real estate, mostly in Gold Coast, and today, he is the director and owner of Mineralogy, a mining company who specialise in iron ore, and according to Palmer, own almost 1000km of land within the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Upon joining the A-League, Palmer stated that he would build a team capable of winning the title in its first season. (They didn’t, though…)

It seems that the war between Palmer and the FFA chiefs, Ben Buckley (CEO) and Frank Lowy (Chairman) began following Palmer’s decision to cap all GCU home game attendances to 5,000 in order to save money. This was highly criticised by all, especially the GCU fans, most of who didn’t bother turning up for the team’s next game which was attended by only 2616 fans. Shortly after, the idea was scrapped after the FFA made their concerns clear. To this day GCU still have an attendance below average.

Following a game against bitter rivals Brisbane Roar, Palmer decided to close all but one stand for the remaining games as punishment to the fans who had thrown flares on to the pitch during the game.

Miron Bleiberg (left) Mitch Cooper (right)

Shortly after, he decided to suspend his team’s manager, Miron Bleiberg, after he described Palmer’s decision to promote 17 year old Mitch Cooper, to team captain, as “ceremonial”. This later led on to Bleiberg being sacked permanently.

The final straw for the FFA came when Palmer violated a term of the league’s equipment regulations, by adding “Freedom of Speech” slogans to the team’s kit and on signs around Skilled Park during a game against Melbourne Victory, but it is unknown if it was aimed at the FFA or Hyatt, the club’s kit sponsor whom Palmer is currently in a legal dispute with. Regardless, the FFA requested that they remove the slogan and the signs by a set deadline, to which the club refused.

On the 29th of February this year, the FFA revoked Palmer’s Gold Coast United A-League license. The team will be allowed to play their remaining fixtures, but after that their future is unclear. They would be allowed to continue playing in the A-League, however, they would have to bring in a new owner. The FFA are also looking to bring through new franchises to replace GCU in the A-League, rumoured to be looking in the western Sydney area. The future, through the eyes of a GCU supporter at the minute, certainly looks bleak.

Should Balls Out In Public bid for Gold Coast United? 


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