Last week, we reported on exhibit A in how to alienate fans in Australia by A-League expansion team Gold Coast United’s billionaire owner Clive Palmer. The club closed three sides of their stadium, Skilled Park, and capped capacity to just 5,000, forcing supporters out of their usual position in the stadium. Fans protested at the game, attended by an A-League record low crowd of just over 2,000.
Palmer has been forced to backpedal fast this week following the demonstration of fan anger and a meeting with Football Federation Australia, who chastised the club for the decision. On Monday Palmer dropped the capacity cap, with the FFA saying “Under the agreement, the cap on crowds is gone and all sections of Skilled Park will be open to the public. In addition a new pricing structure will be released this week making the game more accessible to all people on the Gold Coast.”
High ticket prices had been at the root of Gold Coast’s problems in the first place, leading to Palmer limiting the crowds, putting off potential fans before they’d even had the chance to see the expansion team play, and the new ticket pricing structure announced today addresses that problem. Prices will now be cut significantly, as “A new discounted rate for the remainder of regular season home games means category 3 adult tickets will be available from just $19, concession tickets from $12 and family tickets from a bargain price of $40.”
A special and smart make-good promotion for Gold Coast’s next home game against Sydney FC will see supporters under the age of 15 allowed in for free if accompanying a paying adult.
Will these moves win back fans? They certainly won’t hurt. But some remain convinced that the Gold Coast, already sports-saturated, will not take to the A-League especially with a club run by Clive Palmer. Writing in Four Four Two Australia, Con Stamocostas says Palmer “finds an area to exploit takes what he needs and then moves onto to the next hole. Taking out the earth’s finite natural resources is not going to endear you to one Australia biggest hippie population bases.”
The crowd at this weekend’s game will give us an idea whether Palmer has already managed to dig Gold Coast United into a hole he can’t get them out of, whatever he does now.