Football Federation Australia (FFA) confirmed what football fans in Australia have been expecting for more than a month now, that Gold Coast United Football Club has been sent packing from the A-League with the corpse of the club confined to history.
Despite a late bid from a coalition of business people on the glitter strip to save the club, the FFA’s backing for a western Sydney team has shovelled dirt on the casket.
"FFA has made the assessment that the a level of public and corporate support on the Gold Coast for a Hyundai A-League team falls below the minimum requirements for a professional club," an FFA statement read.
"In addition, a viable business plan and adequate capital investment have not materialised over the past six weeks since the termination of the license held by Gold Coast United Pty Ltd on 29 February."
FFA CEO Ben Buckley, who on Wednesday afternoon was in Sydney's west announcing the formation of the newest A-League club alongside Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was left to explain yet another expansion club disaster after the demise of North Queensland Fury last year.
“FFA is bitterly disappointed that Gold Coast United Pty Ltd failed to develop a market for football on the Gold Coast over the past three seasons,” Buckley was quoted saying in the FFA statement.
“Today’s decision to exit can be directly attributed to Gold Coast United Pty Ltd’s lack of community engagement and its inability to build a football culture around the club.
“We acknowledge the hard work and commitment over the past six weeks by Football Queensland, Gold Coast Football Association, the Gold Coast players and coach Mike Mulvey.
"The team showed great professionalism and pride in performance in the way they completed the season.
“FFA’s mandate is to govern for the good of the game and this decision is the only responsible course to take in ensuring we have a sustainable Hyundai A-League.”
A clutch of GCU’s 23-man squad have already found new homes, others are in negotiations and some will have their football futures cut short after the axing of the team whose billionaire boss Clive Palmer had his license withdrawn at the tail end of the season after one bust-up too many with the game’s governors.
PFA chief Brendan Schwab, who has been encouraging United’s players to find new homes, takes some solace from the creation of a Western Sydney team.
"At least there will be the same number of jobs next season," he said. "The FFA went into a market that was always high risk and now there is the danger, if something isn’t done, of leaving that market somewhat scorched."
It is possible the FFA’s execution of the club could spare its Youth League team, which won back-to-back crowns, with discussions taking place with Football Queensland over its future.
Local Gold Coast businessman and mayoral candidate Tom Tate, spokesman for the consortium that unsuccessfully tried to rebrand the club was left a shattered figure.
"I feel that the commitment from FFA for professional football to remain on the Gold Coast was not there," he said on Wednesday.
"It appears to me that this is not solely about the game itself. It's about egos that exist at the highest levels of FFA and that's why we couldn't save Gold Coast United."
Archie Fraser, CEO of breakaway group Football Australia, was equally scathing of FFA.
"They could have kept the Gold Coast by injecting as little as $1 million," he said.
"That money could have gone spend it in the public, the kids and schools and to promote the game and get people there. They could have given away free tickets.
"You would probably have seen crowds of have had a crowd average of 8000."
Schwab looks back with no pleasure on United’s three tempestuous seasons.
"While you feel sorry for the players and the community, you have to acknowledge that it’s been a very bitter experience," he admitted.
"The promises of three years ago were not kept and we ended up with an owner that treated the game with disdain."
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