Money, money, money, girls, girls, cash, cash. That's yer footballers lifestyle in the top leagues.......isn't it? Everywhere you look, a decade of decadence is unravelling. Neil Sherwin considers a disillusioned owner and Australian austerity.
It wouldn’t be an A-League season without at least one club struggling financially, and the Newcastle Jets have made sure that 2010 doesn’t buck the trend.
The club was in dire straits and at the end of August the playing group, led by captain and former Premier League star Michael Bridges, protested to the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) over unpaid wages.
However, their future now appears to be secure thanks to a takeover by millionaire businessman Nathan Tinkler. The 33 year old is head of the Tinkler Group, a privately owned investment company involved in both mining and the breeding of thoroughbred race horses. Indeed, Tinkler was this week named the richest Australian under 40 with an estimated net wealth of $610 million, up from $366 million last year.
Former Jets owner Con Constantine, who had been the heart and soul of the club for a decade, believed that the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and chairman Frank Lowy had gone behind his back to get Tinkler in place.
"They didn't even have the balls to tell me they'd done it before releasing it," he said. "That's what they call professionalism. They have been wheeling and dealing behind my back all this time and they haven't had the balls to tell me first. Of course I am absolutely shattered."
However the FFA denies any wrongdoing, claiming that Constantine was aware of everything that was going on.
"Mr Lowy rang Con on Tuesday afternoon and suggested he agree to a mutual termination, a parting of the ways, as the FFA board was not convinced he could carry the club on," an FFA spokesman said. "It was put to him that if he didn't agree the licence would be taken away and after he refused to agree to a mutual termination, that is what happened."
How the takeover came about is now completely incidental and it is of course great news that the immediate future of the 2008 A-League champions is guaranteed but one cannot help feeling a little sceptical about the whole thing considering Clive Palmer’s Gold Coast United.
When the Gold Coast franchise was up for grabs ahead of the 2009 season, there were a number of candidates in the hunt but once Queensland businessman Palmer and his billions came along he effectively bought the licence.
Now we have a situation where the club is struggling to attract crowds of over 2000. Indeed, the 2037 gate for the recent home game against the Central Coast Mariners was the lowest ever attendance for an A-League fixture on Australian soil.
Palmer angered United fans a few weeks ago when he looked to re-introduce his extremely unpopular crowd cap, which lasted all of one game when it was implemented in the 2009 season. ‘Crowd Capping’ involves only opening part of Skilled Park and displacing the clubs hardcore following, The Beach, who position themselves behind the goal at the northern end of the ground.
The problem for Palmer though is United need to average just under 8000 spectators per game to break even, and last season they averaged just 5392. He is unwilling to fork out the estimated $120,000 per match to rent a fully open stadium as opposed to the $39,000 for a partially open ground. Having lost around $5 million all up last year, a repeat performance will most likely see Palmer fold the club at the end of this season.
There are hopes that attendances will pick up across the board once the finals series in both Rugby League and Australian Rules finish this weekend, but don’t be surprised if you hear about more clubs struggling to make ends meet before the season is out.
Neil writes regularly for IBWM and is a co-editor of Back Page Football, whose only crime was to give this idiot a microphone last week.