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PLAY IT SHORT (A-LEAGUE) II: Dismissing Palmer concerns only weakens A-League future

Clive Palmer achieved the unthinkable last week: he managed to unite both the FFA and the media in one great pile-on-fest.

Usually it's the self-described 'courageous' media who are piling on something or someone linked to the FFA. No differing opinion, no devil's advocate. All swimming in the same predictable direction.

This time, even the FFA were joining in, taunting and mocking the Gold Coast United owner.

The idea that the A-League could wipe out a club before the end of the season wasn't questioned. The damage of such a decision on future TV rights and attracting investors was never debated. You can only imagine how this played out inside Channel Ten or Nine. How could any supporter pushing to bring the A-League to free-to-air TV be comfortable arguing their case when a club could be eliminated with so little effort - and with it a huge, gaping hole in a channel's programming and advertising potential?

And just how does the media clique's childish reaction to the concerns Palmer raised go down with other potential owners around the country? The Sydney clique (where the guffaws were loudest) seem to believe that Palmer was too much of a rogue for the sport, that we're better off without him.

But only this weekend, out came NRL chief David Yallop urging Palmer to get in touch: "I read recently where Clive said our game was better than soccer. If he'd like to get involved, he seems to have a few issues to deal with but I'd be happy to sit down and have talks with him."

It looks like the mob will push another potentially great asset out of our sport and into the hands of a direct rival.

Maybe what Palmer is arguing is beyond the 'opinion makers'. After all, we're not talking about bashing owners for not 'connecting to the football community', whatever the hell that means. Simple question, if there is this untapped football community, then why isn't football media properties, full of the same personalities who drone on about such issues, more popular in Australia?

Advertising conflicts, TV rights, A-League independence, they're all issues that need to be addressed and fixed to bring in new investment. The fact is, North Queensland Fury have fallen over, Gold Coast are going the same way and Brisbane Roar are owned by Indonesians! Queensland was rightly identified as a great growth state - and the situation needs to be rescued.

Geoff Foster, the Football Queensland chief executive, put his hands up stating they'd not done enough to promote Gold Coast to its members. The A-League, in Queensland, actually has a state federation willing to work closely with the competition to get more fans through the gates. This is unheard of. Yet, just as they find this ally, the FFA appear to be planning to go with only the Roar next season.

Among Palmer's complaints was the selection of the Olyroos and junior national teams. It was dismissed by the clique, though someone from INSIDE THE TENT actually raised the same concern at the time of Palmer's initial rant.

Val Migliaccio's comments in the Adelaide Advertiser deserved greater coverage for shining a light on a baffling selection policy which has hung over Australia's youth teams for years.

After the Olyroos' disaster, Migliaccio argued coach Aurelio Vidmar had his hands tied at the selection table because of the game's heavy reliance on government money.

He argued: "Vidmar has found out that underage teams are a political animal for the FFA's coffers.

"It's where the FFA can justify earning federal government funding so a player named outside the 'pathway' (AIS, institute programs) is not a good look for the entire chain so it rarely happens.

"Priority is always given to those inside the system while worthy players outside the pathway do it tough."

Stunning. This not only sells our most talented, most ambitious youngsters down the river, but also protects the current youth system and those working inside it from the spotlight.

So why isn't this being properly questioned? And I'm not talking about an easy FFA-bashing exercise, but a serious approach to moving the game away from federal government funding and standing on its own.

From fans, to young players, all the way to billionaire owners. The issues inside the game are too serious to be dismissed by a soft soap soccer media.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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