Fink: Karma bites the FFA

ESPNSTAR.com's columnist Jesse Fink analyses the fallout from the week's hectic events in Australian football that saw the Newcastle Jets lose their owner.

Football News: Newcastle Jets Nathan Tinkler

It's been a week since Football Federation Australia announced it would fast-track into the A-League a new Western Sydney club and the next day permanently obliterated Gold Coast United from the face of the earth.

Seven days ago the FFA was strutting around like the proverbial peacock. Confident. Smarmy. The looming TV deal on which everything rode was primed to be a bonanza, it thought, with Western Sydney up and running as a tenth "franchise" and the deadwood gone. The magic ten.

Launch the Twitter account! Call for fan input! Organise a forum! Let's recast ourselves as a federation for the people and go forward together, united, to a bright shared future where tangerine trees grow under a marmalade sky and football fields stretch on forever and ever!

As the FFA's marketing slogan likes to boast: We Are Football. Hilarious, of course, coming from a federation that is about as legitimate, inclusive and caring about the opinions of the common people as the pirate regime of Uzbeki president Islam Karimov.

Then Nathan Tinkler pulled the pin on his ownership of the Newcastle Jets.

Nathan Tinkler. The Boganaire. The self-made mining magnate who was paraded as a white knight (albeit a grossly overweight one on a very bitter horse) when the FFA stripped the far less wealthy but troublesomely truculent Con Constantine of his 10-year Jets licence and handed it over to Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group, no questions asked.

At the time I remember striking a note of caution about Tinkler's mythologising as a "people's hero" and was almost lynched.

Australians - especially Australian football fans - don't like questions being asked when a very rich guy is going around emptying his wallet.

Now 18 months later, he doesn't want a bar of the FFA or the A-League, saying he was left with "no choice".

"We ran out of patience after months of being fobbed off by the FFA administration," he said on Thursday.

"They have not communicated the answers we have been seeking in regard to why we were charged a licence fee and commissions were paid, when other clubs were not charged a cent."

Oh, that's right. As Bonita Mersiades, formerly FFA's head of corporate affairs, outlines in a brilliant editorial, Tinkler got charged $5 million. Adelaide United's new owners got charged nothing. The list of grievances HSG has against the FFA is a long one and set out in detail by Mersiades. It is required reading and can't be condensed adequately in this space.

But back to Tinkler.

"Soccer has an ownership model of established losses, a failure by the FFA to engage with communities and no sound commercial basis for its business relationships. These have combined to guarantee the A-League's failure in Australia."

None of which is incorrect. The A-League has failed because it has been utterly let down by a hands-off chairman, Frank Lowy, who surrounds himself with lickspittle yes men and a CEO, Ben Buckley, who was the wrong choice from the very beginning yet inexplicably gets backed by his boss even when all around him is crumbling to ruin.

For Buckley to complain apropos Tinkler that "you can't sign a contract and walk away from it" and "that's simply not the way business is done" yet ignore process and arbitrarily hand club licences to Tinkler and Clive Palmer, two of the most strong willed, combustible, independent minded and maverick businessmen in the country, is laughable. If you can't handle the egos of billionaires (there's really only room for one at the FFA), don't give them licences in the first place.

Worse was his and Lowy's indifference when their own organisation shafted people as if it were unofficial corporate policy.

The FFA knifed Constantine in the back. They knifed North Queensland Fury and the people of Townsville. They knifed the people behind the competing bids for the licence handed to the stillborn Sydney Rovers, one financially backed by the captain of the Socceroos, Lucas Neill. They knifed Bonita Mersiades.

They knifed former A-League chief executive Archie Fraser. They knifed chief financial officer Ian Lewis. They knifed Australian taxpayers by blowing $45.6 million on a harebrained campaign conducted by a man who did PR for Union Carbide after the Bhopal disaster. They knifed all Australian fans for refusing to side with the English FA's call to abstain from voting in the FIFA presidential election and instead sucked up to the loathsome Sepp Blatter.

They knifed the worthy A-League bids of Southern Cross FC and Canberra. They knifed journalists who asked the questions others were afraid to ask. They knifed the community known as "old soccer", including National Soccer League clubs and former coaches and players, yet gallingly now want them to come back and support the "New Sydney Club". They go on knifing football families with exorbitant player registration fees when they splash out wildly extravagant salaries on underperforming executives.

Karma's a bitch, ain't it, fellas? You reap what you sow.



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