PLAY IT SHORT (A-LEAGUE): Has to be about Palmer, Gold Coast and Aussie football's ego

This week it must be all about Gold Coast United and Clive Palmer ... After the tirade came the predictable backlash - and the inevitable absolving of responsibility.

This week it must be all about Gold Coast United and Clive Palmer ...

 
After the tirade came the predictable backlash - and the inevitable absolving of responsibility.

The question for the game's stakeholders shouldn’t be 'why was Clive Palmer granted an A-League license' , but instead 'did I do everything I could to make Palmer welcome?'.

For investors like Palmer, it's not about their love for the game, it's about convincing them of the opportunities that football can offer.

From the outside looking in, from virtually day one Palmer has been let down by his football advisers at Gold Coast United. By his own admission, he hasn't a clue about the sport and put in place trusted people who he banked millions on in getting things right.

And just as we've seen across the league, these advisers ignored what actually worked on the Gold Coast and instead played for the applause from the soccer clique.

Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City loves his horse racing. Football is strictly secondary - and he didn't grow up dreaming of pulling on the Sky Blue shirt! But he was convinced by his advisers what owning a Premier League can do for the interests of the UAE. Palmer's in the same boat.

The two crowd figures that have stood out since Gold Coast United kicked off were when Palmer flung open the doors and allowed everyone in for free - and the preseason friendly in year one against a below-strength Fulham team.

But in that same winter, while Don Matheson and Ian Ferguson were convincing Robbie Fowler to gamble on North Queensland Fury, Palmer's advisers delivered him Jason Culina.

Culina couldn't fill a row a seats, let alone a stadium. Yet, Palmer made him the highest paid footballer of any code in the country. Cue the applause from the clique, but the people that Gold Coast should've been reaching out to were left underwhelmed.

Those same millions could've been spent on another Fowler. And the result would not only have been a bigger home gate, but greater recognition for Palmer's other business interests across Asia. The story goes he actually asked Matheson about using Fowler in business engagements as his Chinese partners were always nagging him about meeting the Liverpool icon.

As AFL-mad Tony Sage discovered with Perth Glory, having a football property in your portfolio - headlined by someone of Fowler's profile - actually benefits your other interests in the region. But Palmer wasn't even granted the opportunity to see this in action. Instead he was delivered low profile Australia and New Zealand internationals at huge expense.

Imagine importing the icons in India's PLS into Gold Coast ... Hernan Crespo and Robert Pires running around in a Gold shirt, with John Barnes prowling the touchline. It might not work in terms of results - but it would get people through the gate and generate interest across the region. All these guys are free agents, they're available and out there.

Gold Coast is really all about glamour. In that first year, even the hint of David Beckham taking LA Galaxy to the strip - or the Manchester United legend actually pulling on a Gold Coast shirt - filled the front and back pages of the local newspaper for days. Why did Palmer's advisers ignore this?

Now it's crunch time for all parties concerned. Palmer has left the door open to staying on - and instead of going to war with the billionaire, the game should take a step back and find a positive way forward, together.

Why we haven't seen a positive, solution-driven right of reply from the FFA in News Limited today is beyond me. Another opportunity ignored.

Talk to Palmer, talk to his CEO Clive Mensink, who he leans on heavily, and exhaust every avenue to make a Palmer-owned Gold Coast work. Get them connected to middle men who can deliver 'marketable' players, convince Palmer of what an Asian Champions League run can do for his business. Check the egos at the door and actually give ground.

Then, if the response is still the same, the game at least can look itself in the eye and know it did all it could to keep Palmer involved.

But if the approach is successful, well, you couldn't buy the positive publicity that would generate. Palmer's rant has actually given the game a huge opportunity. From today's response, the media have failed to see it, so let's see if the FFA can act a bit smarter.

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