Gold Coast crowd cap means bad business for everyone
Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer has decided to save his club $100,000 every home game by capping the crowds at Skilled Park at 5000.
For mining billionaire Palmer, this makes perfect business sense. For anyone interested in furthering the football cause in Australia, it doesn’t even reach common sense.
Personally, I have two reactions to this story: first is the emotional fan who says this is an outrageous move that disregards the whole point of what Football Federation Australia were trying to achieve when they granted Palmer’s bid an A-League licence.
The second reaction is that of objective observer who argues Palmer has every right to run his club as he sees fit. He wouldn’t have got where he is if he didn’t know business, and if the new franchise were to fall into the financial hole, which still threatens numerous A-League clubs, it would surely be even worse news for the competition. It has been pointed out that the cap will save the club $400,000 before Christmas, and almost $1m if it lasts til season end.
The Gold Coast is one of the most hotly contested sporting landscapes in the country, with all codes desperate to crack the population boom in the area. An Australian football club having its own sugar daddy and rent-a-quote coach in Miron Bleiberg is a strategy straight from the English Premier League; some think it crass but there’s no doubt the pair, and the club, have generated plenty of headlines.
Yet there are many reports that GCU have done little to connect with local population and encourage grass-roots participation with a large section of the Coast community who play the round ball game. Locals say there is little to no promotion for home matches. Fans have also complained that ticket prices are too high to encourage those only half-interested and that Skilled Park is too difficult to get to (although this hasn’t discouraged Titans fans, who regularly reach 15-20,000).
There are also anecdotal reports that those within the club, players and administration, are unhappy with the current strategy. Not surprising, really – who wants to play to a stadium that’s not even one quarter full?
FFA are looking into what action, if any, they can take to change Palmer’s mind, but as you’d expect, the billionaire seems quite unlikely to change his mind.
Perhaps the most telling statement came from GCU chief executive Clive Mensink who said: “We know the FFA are disappointed, but we’ll keep going with it until we see an increase in interest from fans.”
Surely capping the crowd sends a clear message that it doesn’t matter what interest fans show? Gold Coast United seem to believe this is a case of “build it and they will come”. But in such a competitive sporting market as Australia, building fan relationships requires a lot more than a few headlines and a couple of big names.
Clive Palmer is ensuring his club’s financial stability, but at the same time is giving all those who can’t stand football all the ammunition they need.
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