Dear Mr. Palmer,
For the past 40 odd years I have been a fan, player, coach and administrator in the game of football. There is nothing more important to the code in Australia than the success of the A-League.And there isn’t a sport i would follow more than Football.
3 years ago I was a critic of the FFA for considering the expansion of the league with the Gold Coast Galaxy bid. In my opinion the league was not financially ready for any expansion anywhere. (And probably still isn’t)
Then came along a white knight in his helicopter, landed at Skilled Park and handed over a $5 Million cheque to the FFA. This forced the hand of the FFA and they then forced the North Qld Fury into existence before it’s time.
As a fan of the game I either had to get on board or stand on the side and criticise. I chose to believe the white knight and get on board the Gold Coast United bandwagon. After all there was a billionaire funding us and it is 15 mins up the road from where I live. I was very skeptical about the Fury and whether that was a good idea, but the FFA were going to move forward in any case.
For the purpose of this letter I will stand aside any arguments to do with the FFA and Stadiums Queensland. On these issues I for the most part stand shoulder to shoulder with you regarding your issues with them.
My issue is with you and your grandiose statements to the press 3 years ago and ever since. I jumped on board largely on the back of what you said in the media 3 years ago. Your vision for the A-League and Football on the Gold Coast, here are some quotes from the news back then by yourself and CEO Mensink.
Mr Palmer, 54, who made his money in property before switching his focus to mining, sees soccer as the ideal avenue to lift his profile in China, where he already has a business base.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in China that support the national team up there,” Mr Palmer said.
“China’s part of our community. We’ve got to get together, talk, exchange ideas, and certainly sport’s a great medium to do that.”
Restricted by the A-League’s salary cap in how much money he can offer players, Mr Palmer said he had not approached soccer with the idea of making money. “More with the idea of losing money,” he said.
And the only thing preventing him from throwing more millions at his pet football project is the A-League’s $2.5 million annual salary cap.
“This is a great opportunity for players to be a part of history. Our new goal is to go undefeated and take the title. We really think we can do that. We feel we will have the best team in the A-League.”
“I aim to play any part I can in making it No.1 in Australia and having a team in the league that does well and wins in style will go some way to achieving that ambition.
“But it’s not just about building a great club, we’re committed to turning football into Australia’s most loved code. It’s a long-term project but we all believe it’s something that will happen.
Mensink aims to turn the Gold Coast side into the ‘peoples’ team and will court the support of the community with several roadshows spruiking the brand.
“And it won’t just all be about the Coast either,” added Mensink. “We realise what a big role northern NSW has played in football’s development down the years and we want the people there to also embrace this club.”
The one thing you did follow through with was building a competitive team who were good enough to win the title. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. But along the way you have failed miserably to engage the local community. Especially the local football community. Also, ask the people of Lismore and surrounding areas how they feel about you.
And in one of your latest interviews, here is some of what you said.
It’s three years since you started Gold Coast United. Is football getting into your blood?
It gets more exciting as the years go on. You understand the rules better, you understand the teams, the players. This year for us is very exciting. I believe we have our best-ever team. A lot of our squad is made up of youth players who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity. They might have been lost to the code. So I get pleasure out of that.
I should hope so, it is a fantastic sport. You need to really convey that to the general public here on the Gold Coast. I know you attend as many games as you can at both senior and Youth levels. And the word is you have been a bit more engaging with the public this year.
A lot of your players are on one-year contracts, which has raised speculation about the long-term future of the club. Are you going to roll up Gold Coast United at the end of the season?
I would only roll it up to expand it. As for the one-year deals, I would recommend them as the best way to motivate players. We had a guy, I won’t say who he was, working for us in the first year, who told some of our players ”play a couple of good games, get a contract, run dead for a couple of years and then make sure your third year is a good one so you can get another deal”. That’s what a lot of pro footballers have been doing, and it’s despicable. One-year contracts, you either perform or you’re out.
Suggesting that a lot of Pro Footballers act like this is an insult to the profession. You may have had 1 guy, but to generalise like that is abhorrent. I could say most mine owners have no respect for the environment, or the safety of their workers and are only interested in profits, but I know that is untrue.
Suggesting that 1-year deals are the best way to motivate players is ludicrous. You need to secure the services of senior, experienced players, and they are not going to stay for a 1-year deal if there is something better on offer. Also I wonder how your sponsors have reacted to this news? If we didn’t have companies owned by you as a major sponsor I really don’t know how you would go attracting a sponsor with this strategy.
I like the youth coming through but suggesting they are better than the team of the past 2 years is a bit rich when they have not been tested on the pitch as a team.
You’re intimating that sometimes the criticism has got to you. Has the reaction from your own community – you were brought up on the Gold Coast – been hurtful?
The criticism about us not doing enough in the community is a beat-up. We have our breast cancer fund-raisers, we supported a benefit recently for a local detective who was killed, we’re sponsoring the local league, the players are out there every day. [The club claims it has connected directly with 75,000 people in the past year.] The people who know the efforts we make in the community are the people who need it. They’re the ones who we care about, not the journos doing a beat-up.
The criticism is not a beat up. The supporters club has been making suggestions to the club for 2 years on ways to help with crowds and getting out into the community. The increase in this activity has only happened this year. Sponsoring the Local league has only happened this year. It has taken 3 pre seasons to even start making a difference
There are 1000’s of disenfranchised supporters of the game who deliberately do not turn up to the games simply because they don’t think you are doing the right thing, haven’t engaged with them at a local level, and haven’t listened to them. They simply don’t believe you and have no respect for you.
Is it time the owners had more of a say in running the league?
The Crawford report  talked about a management team of the owners getting together to run the league. Ultimately that’s what we need to happen because then everybody gets a fair say. But there’s good reasons why that hasn’t happened yet here in Australia. A lot of our clubs aren’t community-based – they were just created out of nothing. So until we can get more established, it’s hard to see how [separate management from the FFA] can happen.
I totally agree. And this takes a lot more work especially in the community. You cant just rock up in a helicopter, hand over a cheque for $5 Million to the FFA, say we are going to win the comp undefeated and then just expect people to turn up. You need to have a local connection; you need to have someone passionate about the game out there every day of the year sprouting about the club and the game. You are marketing to an emotion not a balance sheet.
What is the mood of the owners at the moment? How critical are the next couple of years, and are they going to stick?
They’re very concerned because they don’t want to lose larger and larger amounts of money. We lost about $4 million last year, and I decided that was too much. We’ve reviewed our operations, pared them back and we’ll probably lose about $1 million to $1.5 million this year. A lot of people reckon we won’t be able to do that successfully, but I’m sure we can prove them wrong. The owners are hoping we’re right.
I also agree that you shouldn’t lose money hand over fist or there will be no club around at the end of the day. And the FFA model could be argued about here but I wont. By my calculations you plan to spend $2.5 – $3 million less this season. I hope you haven’t pruned any off the Marketing Budget.
“Everyone has been running stories for three years saying we’re losing money and we’re closing down,” Palmer said. “Well, if money is what it takes to run a football team I will be committed.
“As far as we go, we are staying at the Gold Coast as long as we can.
“I started the club so I don’t want to see it closed. I quite enjoy it, plus we can afford it.”
You have made a number of quotes in the past 3 years about being able to afford it, I’m not in it to make money etc. Latest reports have you either spending millions on building a new stadium or at least chipping in to modify an existing ground in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games bid if we win it.
To me this is another grandiose statement to get the punters on board thinking you are in it for the long haul. In the words of the Greek God of Victory – “Just Do It”. Prove to us you really are committed to the code and the community.
I simply want action from you.
I have done my bit, as have a core group of fans that turn up every week and sing their lungs out. Bring our friends along, talk up the team, and defend the club and sometimes you to the many detractors out there. I just cant do that any more, defend you that is. I still want to support the A League and I want GCU to survive here on the coast. I also want you to stay at the helm. I simply want you to honor your commitment to the people of the Gold Coast and make it a real “Peoples Team”.
People Buy from People they Like and Trust
You are selling tickets to an emotional roller-coaster. Price is a sticking point with a lot of fans and families but not all of them. Most people were happy with the prices last year, they just didn’t like the way you treated them or the game here on the Gold Coast. Give those fans something to be excited about, gain their trust and respect.
Personally, I buy my ticket to support the team, the League and the Gold Coast