Thursday, March 17, 2011


Indonesian Wants To Buy ALeague Club?

FFA accused of lacking respect for investors

FOOTBALL Federation Australia's caution in considering two potential bids for A-League clubs from wealthy foreign owners is symptomatic of its inability to engage with the Asian region, says the man who found the investors.

Consultant Tony Rallis says Australian football is attracting genuine interest from the Middle East and south-eastern Asia but the FFA is dithering over whether it is legitimate.

That is disrespectful, according to Rallis, who says he had Saudi royal Prince Faisal bin Turki bin Nasser, a football fanatic, interested in a controlling stake in Brisbane Roar, while Indonesian billionaire Aburizal Bakrie is keen to buy the Central Coast Mariners.

However, the negotiations have been delayed by the FFA, and Rallis says he is flabbergasted at how the governing body has not accommodated what he believes would mark a flurry of foreign dollars into the game.

''The FFA needs to start showing some respect when people of this magnitude are interested in getting involved in the game,'' he said. ''And I'm not going to embarrass myself, either. These are very serious football people who I've spoken to about Australia and they have no doubt that this is a market they want to break into. They see the potential here that doesn't exist in other places.

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''But if the FFA continues to act in this manner, they risk losing not only these two, but the rest of the Asian investors who would then come rushing in. Think about how many players went overseas in the last transfer window. By my count, 12 of 14 went to Asia. They're our new trading partners in football and it's where our focus has to be …

''We shouldn't be scared of Asia. It's where our football future lies, and once we demonstrate a willingness to work with them, and that we are patient enough to learn how they do business, we'll reap the rewards.''

While the FFA believes the Roar are a premium A-League club capable of attracting a big-name and big-spending investor, it is concerned about the situation unfolding on the Central Coast. The Mariners' financial situation is perilous and they require an immediate injection of $500,000 to stay afloat.

That situation could be alleviated straight away if Bakrie was to assume ownership of the club, a prospect he will consider when he inspects the properties owned by the club, including the soon-to-be completed Centre of Excellence.

''The Bakrie family owns 20 per cent of Leicester City, a Belgian club, Indonesian club Pelita Jaya … and they have some very good reasons for wanting to get involved with the Mariners,'' Rallis said. ''They'll be out here soon to have a look around before the end of the month. I'm still hopeful that deal can proceed.''

However, his enthusiasm for getting a deal done with Brisbane is waning. Club consultant Michael Bowers has requested direct dialogue with the Saudi prince, who is chairman of regional powerhouse Al-Nassr, a club he effectively underwrites for $35 million each year.

''[Direct contact] is almost impossible for a range of reasons, but the fact is that I have a letter from Prince Faisal expressing a genuine interest,'' Rallis said. ''Brisbane is a club he likes because they a genuine football club with big potential. Melbourne Heart and a future western Sydney club also appeal to him. The Arabs are in tune with what makes a football club.''

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said he would look into the potential investors further if he could speak to them in person.

''Any party who has the right motivation and the financial resources to invest in the A-League is welcome to let us know of their interest and we'd be crazy not to explore those interests,'' Buckley said. ''And if the motivations are right, we'd pursue them in a more formal manner. In recent days I have made contact with one of the overseas parties referenced and I'm in the process of making contact with the other.

''I know plenty of people associated with both parties through the work I do on various AFC committees, so our first port of call is to make direct contact ourselves to gauge their interest. Then we'd have to make sure they'd want to maintain the local identities of the clubs and keep local people involved.''

COMMENT - I think the FFA are right to tread cautiously. A Belgian club? Which Belgian club? (Anderlecht).

Anyway why would this gentleman be so keen on buying a club in Australia? It would just be throwing good money down the pan. It would be a bottomless pit. I mean, no disrespect but Australian football is hardly a gold mine...

I know many of our A-League clubs seem to be going belly-up financially, but I also agree that FFA needs to tread warily. I guess there's always consultants and "consultants" and although this story is pretty big here at the moment, I think FFA is doing the right thing in attempting to deal directly with any potential investors/owners.
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