Gold Coast United franchise terminated over 'freedom of speech' slogan


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The Independent Football

Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer had his A-League licence terminated by Football Federation Australia (FFA) today after refusing to back down in a row over a slogan on the team's shirt.

The club, bottom of the 10-team league with four rounds of the regular season remaining, had been involved in a battle of wills with the FFA after putting the words "freedom of speech" on the shirts last weekend.

"FFA has today terminated the A-League licence held by Clive Palmer... following material breaches of the club participation agreement," FFA chairman Frank Lowy told a news conference.

"The conscious and deliberate contravention of FFA policies and procedures, deliberate defiance of a directive given by FFA and the repeated public statements made by, or on behalf of, Gold Coast United bring the A-League, FFA and the game of football into disrepute."

A billionaire mining magnate, Palmer launched the club to much hoopla as an expansion team in 2008 and they finished third and fourth in the regular season in their first two years, albeit in front of the smallest crowds in the league.

"We intend to fight this ludicrous decision by incompetent FFA in the courts," Palmer posted on his Twitter page (£ !/CliveFPalmer).

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said the team's players would be contacted and asked to fulfill their last four fixtures with the governing body paying their wages.

The team's next scheduled fixture is in New Zealand against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

"If we need extra time to put in place the necessary arrangements then we will consider postponing the match," Buckley said.

"The players are just one of the many innocent victims in all this and FFA will do its best to enable them to see out their playing season on the pitch. They deserve that opportunity at the very least."

The FFA considered cancelling Gold Coast's match against Melbourne Victory last weekend because of the "freedom of speech" slogan, which replaced the logo of club sponsors Hyatt on the front of the team's shirts.

Club chief executive Clive Mensink said on Monday that the FFA had "overreacted" to the use of the slogan, which he said was being used because Palmer's group of companies was involved in legal action against Hyatt and to highlight the plight of refugees.

Mensink said the slogan would remain on the shirts for the remainder of the season "and possibly next season as well".

Palmer had earlier upset the FFA by being quoted in a newspaper as saying he did not like football, which he thought a "hopeless" game, and preferred rugby league.