A-League owners need more rights: Sage

February 21, 2012
By Paul Mulvey

Perth Glory backer Tony Sage says club owners must have more say in how the A-League operates, but is wary of letting the "animals run the zoo".

Sage agrees with maverick Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer's calls for Football Federation Australia (FFA) to grant more input from the businessmen who have thrown millions into their clubs.

"It's about time all of the owners have a greater say in how the money is spent because, in the end, it's our money that's propping up the game," he said.

"If I didn't do it, there'd be no Perth Glory; if Clive didn't do it, there'd be no Gold Coast team; and if Nathan didn't do it, there'd be no Jets team."

The mining entrepreneur has pumped $27 million into the Glory in four years, for a return of around $18 million.

He's happy to cop the $9m loss but, like Palmer, he believes his money should buy him a bit more of a say.

While he said soccer cannot afford to go back to the old NSL model in which clubs controlled the game, he said the FFA should take advantage of the skills of the likes of Newcastle Jets owner Nathan Tinkler and Brisbane's Indonesian owners the Bakrie Group.

"We have no say. That, I believe, is the thrust in what Clive's saying," Sage said.

"You've got a guy like Clive Palmer, Nathan Tinkler, Mr Bakrie, the guys from Adelaide, myself, who have got a wealth of business experience.

"We run successful businesses and there's no way that we can use those business skills at the moment to help.

"But I don't agree with the animals running the zoo - that would create more problems. You need an independent body like the NRL has set up.

"You need a balance.

"You're putting in a total of between $30-40 million into a game that you don't have a lot of say in.

"The FFA has taken that criticism and is now trying to rectify that."

The FFA is addressing the issues raised by Australian Sports Commission chairman Warwick Smith in his report into the governance of soccer, including owners' rights.

The abrasive Palmer, however, is not waiting and is openly taking the FFA on.

Palmer has labelled the A-League a "joke" and called for chief executive Ben Buckley to be replaced, even challenging him to a legal fight if the FFA threatens to revoke his licence.

But Sage believes Palmer's aggressive approach is detrimental to soccer, especially while others who share his views have chosen to remain silent while the FFA consults clubs about the concerns raised in the Smith Report.

"But there's lots of positives. We've made the World Cup twice in a row, the A-League numbers are up, you've got Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton here and other Socceroos wanting to come back - it's a healthy competition," he said.

"Let's not dwell on the negatives."

The FFA said it holds regular talks with owners.

"The process of developing a better model for consultation between the FFA and the 10 clubs has been a work in progress since the last Owners' Forum in December," an FFA spokesman said.

"We'll soon put a firm proposal to the clubs and we believe they are largely comfortable with what's envisaged.

"In any case, their voice is always heard in the decision-making process."