Football Federation Australia revoked the A-League soccer license held by Gold Coast United’s billionaire owner Clive Palmer, who said he intends to take legal action against the decision.
Gold Coast, which is last in the 10-team league, was today issued with a notice of termination following three “clear breaches” of the club participation agreement, including “deliberate contravention” of FFA policies and repeated public statements bringing the league and governing body into disrepute, FFA Chairman Frank Lowy said.
“I’m profoundly disappointed to have had to make this decision,” Lowy said in a televised news conference in Sydney. “We have been left with no alternative.”
Palmer, who is one place above Lowy on BRW magazine’s list of the richest Australians, described the country’s soccer league as a “joke” and his club as “insignificant” in an interview this month. In the past two weeks, he appointed a 17-year-old rookie as captain, fired the head coach and sent the team out with jerseys bearing the slogan “Freedom of Speech” in their most-recent match on Feb. 25, an act in direct defiance of the FFA.
Gold Coast issued a media release earlier today in which mining magnate Palmer, 57, praised Lowy’s contribution to soccer in Australia, adding that the Westfield Group Chairman is “a great Australian icon.”
BRW in May estimated Palmer’s wealth at A$5.05 billion ($5.4 billion), ahead of Lowy’s A$4.98 billion in its Rich List, which was topped by mining magnate Gina Rinehart with A$10.3 billion.
After later being told his club’s license was being revoked, Palmer said on Twitter that he intends to “fight this ludicrous decision by incompetent FFA in the courts.”
“Frank Lowy is an institution who now belongs in an institution,” Palmer added on Twitter.
“His opinion,” Lowy, 81, told reporters in response to Palmer’s comment. “We would have preferred to come to some solution but we have rock solid legal advice that we are entitled to do what we are doing.”
Lowy, who took over the running of soccer in Australia in 2003 following a government review into the sport’s management, yesterday described Gold Coast’s efforts to attract crowds and engage its local community as a “spectacular failure.”
In a later statement today, Palmer called on the government to investigate the current administration following the FFA’s decision to terminate the club’s license.
Lowy “has brought the game into disrepute,” Palmer said. “The sport should not be run by dictators like him.”
FFA Chief Executive Officer Ben Buckley said that Gold Coast had repeatedly indicated over the past four weeks that it wanted to quit the A-League at the end of the season. At the same time, the club made contradictory statements in the media and continued to breach FFA policies, he added.
Buckley said the FFA would ask the Gold Coast players to fulfill the club’s remaining four regular-season fixtures and would pay them for appearing in the games. Gold Coast is scheduled to play third-place Wellington Phoenix on March 4.
“Our priority is to put a team out on the pitch,” he said at the news conference. “A team that’s reflective of the Gold Coast team that we’ve seen this year. They deserve the opportunity to play out the rest of the season.”