Tag Archives: Clive Palmer

Gold Coast United Welcome Back Fans, Will it Work?

Gold Coast United

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.

A Record A-League Low: Gold Coast Dis-United

Clive Palmer, owner of Gold Coast United

Clive Palmer, owner of Gold Coast United

Gold Coast United, an expansion team in Australia’s premier A-League, have already generated negative headlines it takes some teams decades to generate: “A-League may hit rock bottom thanks to the Coast,” says Adrian Musolino in today’s Roar, which also features another piece titled “Gold Coast “United” – How to lose fans and alienate people”.

The club is owned by local billionaire Clive Palmer, who when the expansion team was announced last year made some grand proclamations, stating that “We want to make this the soccer capital of Australia.”  He spoke of the club winning the league in their first season, and the “great community support” they would tap into. Well, just weeks into their first season, and Palmer’s club has already managed to alienate that community support.

In a move that alienated and angered fans, Palmer limited the capacity at United’s stadium Skilled Park at the  last game to just 5,000 in order to save on operating costs for the visit of North Queensland Fury and their glamour A-League attraction, Robbie Fowler (7,526 had shown up for the same match-up previously).

The response? Only 2,616 showed up, the lowest crowd in A-League history, and many of those that did protested against Palmer, Jim Morton reported:

The Coast’s most hardy fans, ‘The Beach’, protested the mining magnate’s plan to save himself $100,000 throughout a scoreless first half in an eery atmosphere.

Brandishing banners which read “Scrap the Cap”, “Fans Not Dollars”, “Cap is Crap” and “Want fans? Ask us how”, the supporters group, decked out in yellow lifesavers caps and shirts, also chanted “stop the cap” and pointed at Palmer’s private box.

The governing body, Football Federation Australia, also expressed concern over Palmer’s decision. The billionaire justified the decision because at a capacity of 5,000, the club only had to pay AUS $40,000 instead of $140,000 in rent for the use of Skilled Park.

But as Musolino wrote in the Roar, it seems awfully foolish of Palmer to alienate fans for his own poor business planning. He criticises the club for failing to engage with the local community Palmer had boasted so proudly of when the expansion team was announced.

Supporter bases are built through community engagement. And the Gold Coast has failed, badly, in this regard. The damage, sadly, may be too severe to repair.

Gold Coast’s approach seems to be an exaggerated example of the line taken by the FFA marketers regarding the A-League’s engagement with the public.

The “build it and they will come” mantra doesn’t work, not for domestic football in this country. Gold Coast has proven that it takes more than stars and results to build a franchise.

Other new franchises need to learn from these differing approaches regarding engaging with their communities. And the FFA needs to act on this disaster before the league hits rock bottom as a result of Gold Coast’s impertinence.

Palmer has a long and rambling defense of his decisions in an official release on the Gold Coast United site. He concludes by saying “the club needs support of, the media, FFA, State Government, Local Government, and most importantly, the fans.”  He’s not doing well in earning that support.